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The transformative potential of social protection public works to empower adolescent girls and young women

Emmeline Skinner and Benjamin Zeitlyn, Department for International Development

Disclaimer: The views expressed within this Think Piece are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of UNICEF. This Think Piece has not been edited to official publication standards and UNICEF accepts no responsibility for errors.

Emmeline Skinner and Benjamin Zeitlyn, Department for International Development

Young women and adolescent girls are often overlooked by public works programmes, despite clear evidence on the critical importance of adolescence within the life course, with regard to vulnerability, nutrition, reproductive health, and transition to the labour market. Adolescence has also been shown to be a critical juncture in people’s lives, at which decisions made and paths taken can have a profound effect on outcomes in adult life and the lives of the next generation.

This paper explores the potential for public works programmes to address some of these challenges in terms of targeting older adolescent girls and young women with gender-sensitive approaches that have the potential not only to meet their immediate needs, but also provide them with skills and experience to support their transition into the labour market and promote economic empowerment.

Poverty and Youth Employment in Mozambique

Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranked 180 out of 188 in the 2018 Human Development Index. GDP per capita is only $426, and some 63% of the population live below the international poverty line of $1.90 per day, whilst 46% fall below the national poverty line. With a population of almost 30 million, 66% are under the age of 24, and 22% are between the ages of 15 and 24 (and the focus of this paper). At present, approximately 35% of the population live in urban areas, although this is set to rise considerably over the next decade as urbanisation trends continue, so that by 2040 there will be more people living in urban than rural areas of Mozambique.

Despite the discovery of immense gas reserves in 2010, and a short burst of economic growth based on optimistic forecasts, there has been little job creation in Mozambique and young people are growing up in a context in which 80% of employment is informal. Research carried out by the DFID funded MUVA programme in Maputo and Beira showed that as few as 18% of young people are in any form of waged employment and only 4% have a formal contract.

Social Protection in Mozambique

Social Protection is a central pillar of Mozambique’s poverty reduction strategy and benefits from strong Government commitment. In 2018, 71% of the budget for social protection came from the state budget, up from 62% in 2008. In recent years, despite economic problems, social protection budgets have been protected and have even seen modest increases.

Social protection in Mozambique is managed by The National Institute of Social Action (INAS), which is part of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Action (MGCAS). INAS implements three cash transfer programmes that are part of the National Basic Social Security Strategy (ENSSB2). These are i) a basic programme (PSSB) covering about 370,000 households targeting poor and vulnerable older people, people with disabilities, chronically sick and vulnerable children; (ii) a public works programme (PASP); and (iii) the Direct Social Support Programme (PASD) which has two components, one providing in-kind support and a second focused on post-Emergency Cash Transfers (PASD-PE). In addition, the Programme of Social Services for Social Action (PSSAS) provides support through social work and institutions (e.g. elderly centres, day care centres).

Total coverage of all social protection programmes in 2017 was 470,786 direct beneficiaries or households. If we assume that each household has an average of five people in it, the programmes together benefit almost 2.4 million people. This is less than 20% of the number of poor people in Mozambique, which is over 13 million people.

Mozambique Social Protection Coverage 2017

The ‘Programa de Acção Social Produtiva’ (PASP) is a public works programme, in which participants work for four days a week, for four hours a day, for four months a year (six in urban areas). The timing of this should link to seasons when there is no agricultural work. Participants receive a monthly allowance of 1050 MT ($17). PASP has been supported by a loan from the World Bank, but delivered by INAS. The programme has suffered from delays and a range of problems. Many of these problems originate from the overambitious design and expansion plan, the radical changes to INAS’s existing ways of delivery that PASP entailed, and political resistance to some of these changes. PASP participants do a range of types of work, but many of these have not been very ‘productive’ or led to the construction of useful assets. The programme has not effectively designed and delivered the component that is supposed to develop skills or provide work experience that enables participants to find employment. Work is short-term, low paid and provides only temporary income rather than facilitating long-term job creation or sustainable exits from poverty.

Targeting has been an issue. The World Bank approach of using a poverty means test (PMT), means that the programme targets the poorest households, but the process is slow and unpopular with government. The way that the PMT assesses households using data on the head of the household overlooks the existence and status of adolescents within the household.  PASP has been ineffective at targeting and including youth (with public works generally targeting household heads/spouses rather than young people). This is because PASP public works have tended to be low status, low skill, and unattractive jobs that rarely appeal to young people. Middle-aged women make up the majority of PASP participants, but the programme is not particularly gender-sensitive nor leads to women’s economic empowerment, and so fails to address power dynamics or have any real transformative effect on gender relations.

Finally, INAS has not had the capacity to manage a complex public works programme. PASP has a constant churn of beneficiaries, payments, procurement and management of equipment, delivery of public works, and skills training. INAS has neither the capacity in-house, nor the partnerships with other public or private institutions at local level, to deliver this range of activities.

A new approach to Public Works

MUVA, a DFID-funded programme which tests innovative approaches to promoting economic empowerment of young women and adolescent girls, is piloting a different kind of public works that offers the potential to facilitate adolescent girls’ and young women’s entry into the labour market. The project, called MUVA Assistentes (see explanation box) responds to some of the problems with PASP. It shifts the way we conceptualise public works; away from short-term temporary employment towards a form of internship or apprenticeship that provides young women with an income, and gives them the skills and experience that can improve their opportunities to find employment in the future. It also changes how we measure the outputs of public works, away from the creation or maintenance of physical public assets and infrastructure, and towards a focus on the delivery of basic services that meet young women’s needs. In this example, the model delivers teaching assistance in over-crowded classrooms, thereby improving the learning environment for both girls and boys, but also addressing a gender imbalance in schools, where the majority of teachers are male and where sexual harassment is commonplace. In addition to building the skills and experience of adolescent girls and young women in a way that prepares them better for future employment, this model also has the potential to prepare a pipeline of experienced (female) employees to work as public officials in service delivery in the future.

The MUVA Assistentes Model

  • Targets adolescent girls and young women (aged 18-25) from poor households in low income urban neighbourhoods who have completed 10th grade of school.
  • Provides participants with an intensive 4-week training course, followed by a year of paid work experience as part-time teaching assistants (4 hours per day) in over-crowded primary school classrooms.
  • Teaching assistants work alongside professional teachers, supporting them in the classroom and with correction of homework, earning a stipend of $32 per month.
  • Following a year of experience, girls are better equipped to find employment.
  • Addresses the three priorities of: poverty reduction (and graduation from poverty); youth skills and employment; and improvement of primary education experience.
  • Holds the potential to provide a pipeline of experienced young women to work in public sector service delivery roles (teaching and other professions) in the future.

Preliminary Results of MUVA Assistentes:

  • Cash transfer offers the first form of income for most girls, with financial inclusion rising from 27% to 96% as girls opened bank accounts to save their cash.
  • Significant improvement in the learning environment and the relationship between the pupils and the adults in the classroom (both assistant and teacher).
  • Significant impact in terms of “soft skills” and employability skills (i.e. body language, confidence when speaking and expression, logical argumentation).
  • 96% of participants have a clear professional aim they are now working towards.

For more information see a short video on how the model works.

Two cycles of the MUVA Assistentes model have already been tested out in Maputo, reaching over 180 young women and a third and final cycle of the project is now underway. The project is now active in 15 inner city schools covering a total of 200 classrooms, and an estimated 10,000 pupils.  MUVA has successfully influenced the National Social Assistance Institute (INAS) to pilot the Assistentes approach as part of the government’s programme for social protection national social protection programme and 100 assistants are currently being employed as part of the World Bank funded Productive Social Action Programme (PASP). In 2020, INAS will assess the initiative and, if deemed successful, will add the approach to their portfolio of social transfers, thereby guaranteeing the continuation and expansion of the initiative both in Maputo and nationally.

Simultaneously, a scoping study is underway to explore different options that could be piloted under a similar model, involving partnerships with municipalities or public service delivery agencies. These could include the employment of young women in urban development and the creation of green spaces, the monitoring and maintenance of water delivery services, the monitoring and maintenance of electric services, the delivery of home-based care or health campaigns, provision of early childhood care or after-school care, food-handling for school nutrition programmes, sports coaching, community services, crime prevention, etc.  

 

Challenges of the MUVA Public Works Plus Model

Scaling up MUVA Assistentes through PASP has revealed a number of challenges. One of these is how to shift from household-based targeting to an approach that identifies vulnerable adolescent girls and young women within eligible households.  There were some concerns that finding a sufficient number of adequately educated young women amongst the poorest households would be impossible, yet analysis of poverty data showed that as many as 76% of households in the poorest quintile have an adolescent girl in secondary school, while 83% of those in the second poorest quintile do, indicating that there is no shortage of educated young women in extreme poor households who would be eligible for public work.

Another challenge is to maintain quality when going to scale, with existing public works programmes tending to prioritise coverage and numbers, rather than focusing on quality of employment or training and skills provided. Linked to this is the challenge of the cost of training and the slightly higher stipend offered (in order to make the work attractive and appealing to young people). Currently as many as 70% of PASP beneficiaries are female, but this tends to reflect the low wage and lack of other opportunities for poor women and the fact that men are not drawn to (or can find alternatives to) such low paid work. Another issue which needs to be considered in the implementation of these more complex public works is that of institutional ownership and management, particularly where partnerships are required with other public entities (such as municipalities or local schools, as is the case with MUVA Assistentes). There are still issues that need to be resolved with regard to who delivers and covers the costs of the training, as well as who manages participants in these different types of employment. Finally, it is important to be aware of the political economy challenges in implementing these cross-sectoral types of public works, in terms of the need for co-ordination across ministries and sectors (and budget-sharing), which is not always easy to manage in the case where social protection falls under one ministry, but the sectors in which the public works take place falls under another. Given all these challenges, it is critical to manage the risks of adding too much complexity to a social protection system that may already struggle with core delivery and basic systems (such as targeting and payment mechanisms) and to ensure that these are in place to provide the foundation on which any more innovative form of public works is based.  

Conclusion

Public works have been used as a preferred form of social protection by many donors and governments for decades, favoured for their perceived economic and political benefits, in terms of increasing productivity, contributing to graduation from poverty, and promoting political stability. Yet evidence of their impact on job creation is very weak, and little consideration has been given to their potential for addressing the challenge of youth unemployment and the particular constraints facing young women in entering the labour market. The time has come for a step change in our approach to, and expectations of, what public works can achieve, with the Mozambique pilot offering the potential to generate new evidence and lessons on how a new type of public works can bridge the gap between social protection and economic empowerment, and have a transformative effect on outcomes for adolescent girls and young women.

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Social protection may decrease or increase exposure to abuse, violence, or other negative impacts, especially on children, women, and girls due to their age and gender-specific vulnerabilities. For example, public works programmes may increase stress levels and time poverty of women by incentivising them to engage in productive work, but without re-allocating intra-household division of childcare and chores. Research on this dimension is increasing. A review of impacts undertaken by Bastagli et. al. found strong evidence of a reduction in domestic violence for female recipients of conditional cash transfers. The review noted that transfers tend to increase women’s decision-making power and reduce physical abuse but in some cases these impacts were accompanied by increased non-physical abuse, such as emotional abuse or controlling behaviour, by male partners. Level 2: Cope This level denotes an explicit ambition for tailoring the programme design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation to achieve gender-equitable outcomes. However, the ambition is only limited to helping women and girls cope with consequences of poverty, meet basic needs, or protect themselves against shocks in the immediate and short to medium term; there are no considerations for bridging the gender gap in social, economic, and political development, or for tackling the root causes of inequality. Income support programmes and transfers in development and humanitarian contexts that consider gender differences in some breadth and depth fall into this category. The primary purpose of such programmes is to supplement a family’s income for consumption smoothing, but in some cases, they choose women as their target group. However, unintended impacts may occur in a wide range of sectors, especially in the case of unconditional cash transfers, as families can use the transfers for purchasing a variety of goods as well as services. Level 3: OpportunityThis level represents an ambition for promoting gender-equitable access to opportunities and reducing disparities between men and women: education, health, nutrition, employment, etc. The focus is on tackling demand-side constraints and conditioning or nudging behaviours to bridge the gender gap in the uptake of development opportunities. This level requires a deeper analysis of drivers of poverty and social exclusion in relevant sectors, and tailoring of scope, target group, eligibility, benefits, geographical coverage, and delivery systems. Conditional cash transfers, public works programmes, graduation, and asset transfers fall into this category if they differentiate how demand-side barriers and constraints differ for men and women in accessing social and economic opportunities. In low- and middle-income countries, such programmes are the dominant form of social protection. Bastagli et. al. have documented positive impacts on school enrolment and attendance of girls and use of maternal health services in social protection programmes. Level 4: TransformThis is the highest level of ambition for a gender-responsive social protection programme and indicates an explicit intent for adopting a holistic approach for tackling constraints that prevent women and girls from realising their full potential at different stages of the life cycle. A gender-transformative programme thoroughly considers gender-specific characteristics and differences in needs, risks, and vulnerabilities, and adapts approaches accordingly. It does not preclude social protection for coping or opportunity, but has additional focus on social norms, gender relations, enabling environment, and the root causes of gender inequality. High level of complexity and a multi-pronged approach are therefore inevitable at this level. Sabates-Wheeler and Devereux envisaged that transformative elements of social protection seek to address concerns of social equity and exclusion through social empowerment, e.g. collective action for workers’ rights, building voice and authority in decision-making for women. If the ambition is for social protection mechanisms to transform the lives of women and girls, they need to tackle a wide range of gendered social and economic risks and behaviours, e.g. early marriage, intra-household relations between men and women, mobility constraints, etc. Classifying any of the existing programmes as transformative is out of the remit of this brief but it is worth a mention that elements are present in varying degrees in some existing programmes. The Juntos programme in Peru, for example, has positively influenced unequal power imbalances and division of labour within the household through linkages to complementary programmes and services. Limitations There are some dimensions related to the INCOT levels which are not discussed here. What are the factors behind an uneven progress in the integration of gender in social protection? What types of gender-based characteristics and differences matter most in social protection approaches and how do they relate to each other? Is it possible to define elements of a level of ambition in more discrete terms? What kind of analysis and adaptations will be needed to translate an ambition into practice at a given INCOT level? What are the key drivers of evolution of ambition for gender-responsiveness? Can social protection mechanisms work well with all levels of ambition in any sector? These are important questions that need in-depth analysis and preparation of detailed practical guides and procedures. The value of INCOT band, as it is outlined in this brief, is to encourage a debate on the need for an explicit ambition, and guide thinking toward a vision for gender-equality trajectory of social protection programmes at a high level. Another dimension pertains to the progressive nature of the INCOT levels. Many social protection programmes are designed to have multiple first- and second-order objectives, tackling different needs and risks. Therefore, a single social protection programme may include sub-programmes or elements that cut across more than one level, or contrariwise do not include elements of a lower level. For example, it is possible for a programme to focus on coping (Level 3) or opportunity (Level 4) but without attention to the principle of “do no harm” (Level 1). In this scenario, a level may be defined according to the dominant element of ambition or preference given to highest applicable level. While there is a great degree of logical progression, these levels might not be mutually exclusive in some cases. Reality is more complex than these levels tend to suggest. Conclusion There is significant variation in the extent to which gender has been integrated into social protection programmes. Intent of policymakers and implementers for desirable gender results is generally vague or limited to targeting women only. Setting a clear ambition is a first and vital step towards catalysing political will, leveraging resources, and harnessing the scope of social protection for larger and better gender outcomes. The nature and depth of analysis needed at different stages of the programme cycle and corresponding adaptations in scope, target group, benefits, location, and delivery systems follow the ambition, which itself is not static and can evolve over time. There are multiple levels of ambition depending on what we want a programme to achieve. The INCOT band guides thinking for framing ambition at five levels: indifferent, no-harm, cope, opportunity, and transform. These levels can be used in designing a new programme or sense-checking where an existing programme lies on a scale in terms of breadth and depth of gender-specific characteristics and differences considered.Download the bibliography#page-article-other .items h4.related-title { font-family: futura-pt-condensed,sans-serif; text-transform: uppercase; font-size: 150%; font-weight: medium; padding: 0; margin: 0; clear: both; color: #1CABE2; margin-bottom: 20px; visibility: hidden; position: relative; } h4.related-title:after { visibility: visible; position: absolute; content: "THINK PIECES"; top: 0; left: 0; }
Adolescence: policy opportunities and challenges
Article Article

Adolescence: policy opportunities and challenges

Disclaimer: The views expressed within this Think Piece are those of the author(s)and do not necessarily represent the views of UNICEF. This Think Piece has not been edited to official publication standards and UNICEF accepts no responsibility for errors.Maxine Molyneux, University College LondonThe increased attention devoted to adolescents in global policy is timely and welcome. When not neglected altogether, adolescent’s needs are typically subsumed within policy briefs on children or adults, or narrowly focused on tackling particular social problems that young people are seen to be uniquely responsible for.It is a truism that young people hold the future prospects of a country in their hands. Yet they have often been denied a real chance to contribute to it, let down by poor secondary education, lack of training and labour market opportunities. Economic downturns and austerity policies exacerbate these effects, pushing up youth unemployment, migration and casualisation, and cutting short education. The 2008 economic crisis affected young people more than adults with lasting effects: in Latin America the youth unemployment rate (those aged 15–24 years) had reached nearly 20% by 2016 leaving one in every five young people unemployed (ILO, 2017).  Deepening inequality and economic hardship impacts on communities, driving the narcotics economy, crime and insecurity, and increasing the risks to which young people are vulnerable.  If policy responses have been disappointing--slow, partial and sometimes harshly repressive--there is every reason to hope for more positive approaches in countries where adolescents form a sizeable part of their populations. Today’s cohort of young people is the largest in history and 90% of those aged 10–24 years live in low- and middle-income countries. Governments often speak of ‘investing in youth’ as the key to future development, and  vocational training and apprenticeships for unemployed youth are rising up the policy agenda.  Mexico’s  programme ‘Young People - Building a Future’ is a case in point.  Less positively, there is growing concern about youth disaffection with ‘politics as usual’, political extremism, and rising youth crime. All these are factors which indicate the need for more adequate, inclusive approaches and joined-up policymaking and practice. How governments address these issues, how they engage with their young people, and what policies are or are not adopted, reveals much about the deep divisions in and between contemporary societies. There can be little doubt that whatever policies are pursued, they will have long lasting effects that will shape the fortunes of the countries concerned.A time of changeWe know that adolescence is a critical phase due to the biological, mental, and cultural adaptations that need to be made in the transition to adulthood.  Adolescence is a time of sexual and relationship experimentation and of identity formation, when social norms, both good and bad, can play a crucial role in setting behavioural patterns. Social change can generate tensions between generations, and between rural and urban populations over what is considered appropriate conduct. Caught amidst changing and conflicting norms and behaviours, vulnerable young people who cross the accepted lines can be harshly affected by discrimination and punished by repressive laws if they transgress the gender norms of their community or country. Same sex relationships in hostile contexts can bring heavy penalties and shame to LGBT+ children, along with high rates of mental illness, suicide, and self-harm. Sometimes government policies lag behind social attitudes: in the Caribbean, same sex relationships, previously viewed as unacceptable, have seen majority attitudes shift in favour of more liberal laws. As norms change and diversify, mixed messages can be confusing especially in matters of sexual conduct, and as old norms erode, attention must be paid to how to embed positive new norms to help young people safely navigate their transitions to adulthood. Education plays a critical role here, but so too can other areas of social policy, such as health services and social protection programmes which are targeted at the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.  If a mixed picture emerges with regard to social norms, we are nonetheless seeing evidence that societal and parental attitudes seem to be slowly changing for the better. Human rights frameworks, when embedded in national law and institutions, have played a key role in setting positive norms as well as establishing rights which have been critical for girls and women, as they have for LBGT+ people and other discriminated populations. While much remains to be done to secure these rights for all, and in some cases to defend them against those who oppose them, they have helped to promote important attitudinal and behavioural changes that provide young people with some protections. With respect to gender, globally there has been some progress in tackling the harms of non-recognition that arise from gender inequalities, including the everyday denigration of girls and women, their limited opportunities and exclusion from many areas of work. Parents today are often more aware of the benefits of educating girls for future employment. Yet, where gender norms continue to stress early marriage and downplay the importance for girls of taking up rewarding work, there is all too often a failure to offer girls the same training opportunities open to boys. This is a missed opportunity. In a world where knowledge of basic computing skills is essential, and new jobs and educational opportunities are opened up in technology and science, girls can lose out if they are channelled into ‘female occupations’, whether old-style handicrafts or micro-enterprises based on their supposedly natural domestic skills. The gender gap in IT skills remains far too wide, and it is still the case that in many regions, business and management training, engineering, and skilled crafts are all occupations which tend to be overwhelmingly male. Imaginative approaches to closing the gender gap in these and other occupations can help to challenge rigid and disabling gender norms while at the same time securing more stable economic futures for young women. That said, we have seen in recent decades real efforts on the part of NGOs and other development actors directed at changing girls and women’s attitudes, with some notable successes. However, far fewer interventions have involved boys and young men. There is a need for greater understanding that boys also need attention and support, with targeted services not only to address their needs but critically, to encourage new ways of thinking. Challenging boys’ more negative attitudes about girls and women and encouraging them to see the benefits of more equal partnerships across the gender divides is the natural counterpart to interventions targeted at female empowerment.This involves understanding some of the problems faced by adolescent boys. While one of the positive changes that has occurred worldwide is the closing, or at least the narrowing, of the gender gaps in primary and secondary school enrolment, the less positive development is that boys are falling behind, especially in low income households.  As a result, many boys drop out early to earn money in low paid sectors of the economy with few prospects. Furthermore, marginal and poor young men are often stigmatised and have difficulties accessing services. Yet, tackling gender inequality and the negative social norms that help to sustain it, must include boys and young men. Gender is necessarily relational, to focus on one group and exclude the other is, in policy terms, like one hand clapping. On freedom and ProtectionAdolescence is a transitional stage on the way to adulthood and a balance has to be struck between enabling new freedoms and ensuring protections from harms. This basic point is illustrated by the increasing access to the internet, with children making up 1 in 3 internet users today. For all its positive aspects in terms of social networking, learning, and ease of communication, it also has a dark side which can constitute a threat to young people, whether through too early sexualisation and acquaintance with pornography, or exposure to sexual predators and traffickers.  Internet usage can widen the generational gap and at the same time weakens parental control over what children can be exposed to. A growing consensus is calling for greater regulation to protect young users from harms, and we may see change in this area soon. In the meantime, however, although children and young people need to be given adequate protections where possible, the internet remains an important and necessary part of their lives. The balance between freedom and protection is perhaps most evident in respect of sexual and reproductive health, where an absence of appropriate measures can lead to life-changing circumstances whether through unwanted pregnancies or STDs.  HIV/AIDS is the second most common cause of death among adolescents globally. Preventive services and gender equality values have come under attack in Latin America and elsewhere as neo-conservative religious movements have been gaining traction in recent years, with the aim of reversing existing policies on sex education and reproductive rights.  Moral panics over social problems involving young people have led to the adoption of harsher policies and penalties which only create further problems. Governments, for instance, worry about rising numbers of teenage mothers, yet some adopt policies that only exacerbate the problem, banning sex education in school, restricting reproductive rights and access to the services that young people desperately need if they are to avoid early pregnancy and health risks. Ending sex education and closing SRH services does not alter behaviour or stop young people from having sex, it only stops them from taking safe precautions. The result is that desperate young people seek help through unsafe underground means.  These outdated attitudes and policies need tackling through education and public media, while governments and churches need to be made aware of the harms incurred by these measures and encouraged to observe the human rights protocols that countries have signed up to. One important point to note on sex or relationship education (as it is increasingly being seen), is that this only works well when developed with young people’s input into what is taught, and includes discussion of positive values and norms in its brief. Listen to adolescentsIndeed, some of these policy gaps and policy failures are due to the fact that young people lack voice and representation in decision-making settings of all kinds. While they will face the consequences of decisions and non-decisions of policymakers, they are all too rarely consulted about the issues that affect them, the environment being a particularly stark example. In this and many other areas, the continuing toll of inaction in addressing young people’s needs and aspirations only deepens the sense of disappointment, alienation, and frustration that many feel. It is hardly surprising that young people have been taking to the streets in numbers in many different parts of the world to demand more policy action on environmental issues, and on government corruption, while women and young men have repeatedly protested against sexual violence and demanded their reproductive rights. While this activism is welcome, it clearly indicates the need for more inclusive approaches, including more consultation with, and representation of, young people in the policy debates of our times, engaging more directly with their aspirations and needs. Young people’s energy and creativity should be celebrated and encouraged, and seen as the key to transformative change.If policymakers have begun to focus on young people, we need to ask them: are they addressing the problems faced by adolescents and what are the lessons learned so far?  Research is sparse but it is at last under way and accumulating, though more is needed, as is disaggregated age and sex data. New research builds on the greater awareness of changing life cycle needs and shows that well designed interventions to help adolescents at this critical time of their lives can have major positive impacts, mitigating the risks they face and at the same time enhancing their life chances. It also shows the need for a more holistic and positive approach to adolescence, one that does not demonise the young, that listens to their needs, encourages their participation in public life, and develops integrated policy interventions into a workable joined-up set of approaches. We are far from being there yet.How can social protection be more responsive to adolescent needs?Social protection is an essential building block for households from which adolescent members can benefit in the following ways:1. Cash transfers (CTs) reduce household poverty which in turn leads to:Increased household consumption and nutritionReduced child labour Increased school enrolment and attendance Increased confidence and self-esteem among recipients  2. Going FurtherWhere social protection programmes have clear social equality goals and are accompanied by relevant services, the chance of more significant changes, especially for the most vulnerable (girls, women, disabled, sexual, ethnic and religious minorities,) is greater.Empowering women has a positive effect on children, including creating positive role models and changing attitudes towards girls and women by men.3. Cash transfers could do more:Include adolescents in CT programme activities and services where appropriate:Allow them access to health services. These are vital for adolescents but few clinics that service mothers and babies are open to adolescents and there are almost no services for mental health, which can be a major problem among  young people.Offer training/skills and (if needed) literacy sessionsInclude adolescents in parenting, child health, gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health and relationship sessionsEnsure that programme design does not reinforce unequal gender roles in the household. Changing parents’ behaviours and attitudes sends important messages to childrenAvoid treating mothers and daughters as exclusively responsible for caring, by eg. imposing heavy conditionalities, and excluding men from parenting/child health sessions. Collect sex and age disaggregated data on recipients4. Transformative interventions for adolescents:Cash transfers can promote positive values and incentives to bring about changes in norms and behaviour by:Providing extra cash incentives for families with girls to boost school attendance Allowing any conditionalities to be carried out by male members in the household.Complementary services, like skills training, should provide imaginative, gender equal, and transformational skills to programme beneficiaries, including use of ICT and financial competence.Affordable, free childcare can allow daughters, as well as mothers, to access income or skill generating activities.Creating effective feedback, participation, and consultation mechanisms for adolescents, and including them in social accountability exercises.Working with boys, men and parents to change attitudes and tackle ‘dysfunctional masculinity’. In Kenya, ‘no means no’ consent classes reduced rape by 50%.Support families to change attitudes eg the Adolescent Girls Empowerment programme in Zambia works through inclusive community-based programmes.Working with ICT to reduce risks and enhance opportunities for young people. Boys only and girls only clubs or spaces allow discussion of difficult issues they are facing, including GBV, FGM, STDs, HIV, and substance abuse risks.5. Policymaking:Strengthen policy and programme focus on adolescents Policies must be gender-focused and pro-equalityIdentify clear context-based priorities Provide adolescents with voice and representation in policy processes and at project levelImprove data collection on adolescents disaggregated by sexPolicies need to be joined up, cross ministry, particularly in education and healthDownload the bibliography#page-article-other .items h4.related-title { font-family: futura-pt-condensed,sans-serif; text-transform: uppercase; font-size: 150%; font-weight: medium; padding: 0; margin: 0; clear: both; color: #1CABE2; margin-bottom: 20px; visibility: hidden; position: relative; } h4.related-title:after { visibility: visible; position: absolute; content: "THINK PIECES"; top: 0; left: 0; }
Enhancing adolescents’ capabilities through adolescent- and gender-responsive social protection
Article Article

Enhancing adolescents’ capabilities through adolescent- and gender-responsive social protection

Disclaimer: The views expressed within this Think Piece are those of the author(s)and do not necessarily represent the views of UNICEF. This Think Piece has not been edited to official publication standards and UNICEF accepts no responsibility for errors.Maia Gavrilovic, UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti, and Tia Palermo, University at BuffaloAdolescence is a period of considerable physiological, cognitive, and brain development. It is also a time when key decisions are made related to schooling, skills’ acquisition, partnerships, sexual debut, pregnancy, and marriage, all of which have lasting effects on an individual’s well-being and that of their future children. These decisions and transitions often occur in a context of limited individual autonomy and multidimensional risks that adolescents face, which are often gendered. Adverse coping strategies in response to poverty and other social vulnerabilities may increase boys’ risk of hazardous child labour, or girls’ pressures to engage in transactional sex, or drop out of school to engage in caregiving and domestic activities. These gendered responses to poverty and vulnerability are processes through which gender unequal outcomes occur. For example, adolescent girls face increased risk of HIV infection, early marriage, rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) and sexual violence, and early pregnancy, among others.  Many of these adverse outcomes are related to girls’ sexual and reproductive health vulnerability, often compounded by structural barriers to their accessing appropriate healthcare due to social norms, which do not always reflect the reality of girls’ daily situation, autonomy, and capabilities.In light of these risks, the potential for enhancing adolescents’ capabilities across multiple domains (including economic empowerment, physical capabilities, psycho-social wellbeing, bodily integrity, violence and agency, and education and learning) and therefore facilitating safer, healthier, and more productive transitions to adulthood, has important implications for reducing the inter-generational transmission of poverty, increasing realization of individual rights, and stimulating economic growth. A promising tool in reducing gender vulnerabilities faced by adolescents and facilitating their safe transitions to adulthood is social protection (SP), and cash transfers (CTs) in particular. What does the evidence say: How do cash transfers contribute to positive gender outcomes for adolescents? There is an increasing body of evidence examining how social protection, including CTs, improves the broader well-being of adolescents. Any impacts on adolescents of household-targeted transfers must first work at the household level. There is strong evidence on the positive impacts of CTs on household consumption, food security, and productive activities. Through these pathways, impacts on individual well-being across broader domains can occur. Indeed, the evidence demonstrates positive impacts on school enrolment and reduction in child labour among children and adolescents, while health seeking and related outcomes have largely been studied among young children, with very little evidence on adolescents. Studies also examine whether CTs can improve broader dimensions of well-being, such as protecting against early sexual debut, marriage, pregnancy, violence, and HIV/STI risk, with promising but mixed evidence, often varying by gender and context. For example, there is evidence that Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) may have delayed early marriage among adolescent girls, as did a non-governmental CT in Malawi. However, studies of government CTs in Kenya, Malawi and Zambia failed to find protective effects on early marriage. In India, a government conditional CT to delay marriage had the unintentional effect of increasing marriage rates upon girls’ turning 18, given the increased availability of resources for dowries.  The evidence on social transfers and violence against children and adolescents globally is limited but suggests the potential for protective effects, particularly around exploitation and sexual abuse among adolescent girls. Turning to sexual debut and risky behaviours, there is evidence that government CTs delayed sexual debut and pregnancy in Kenya and South Africa (among girls but not boys), but not in Malawi or Zambia. There is also evidence that the South African programme reduced transactional sex and age-disparate sex (also among girls but not boys). The evidence on HIV and STI incidence and prevalence comes mainly from behavioural experiments and non-governmental programmes, with target populations that often vary significantly from government social protection programmes, and generally find no reductions in HIV prevalence or incidence (with one exception from Malawi), but some protective effects on other STIs.Studies from Malawi and Kenya find that CTs improved mental health among adolescents, but there were no impacts in Tanzania, Zambia or Zimbabwe. Furthermore, impacts are often gendered: in Malawi government programming, there were protective impacts on both genders but impacts were stronger among females. However, in Kenya, findings were driven by the male sample. In a non-governmental programme in Malawi, unconditional CTs reduced psychological distress but conditional CTs increased distress among adolescents girls.Given the differential impacts by gender and context described above, it is likely that gender dynamics--including gender norms, roles, and expectations--moderate the impacts of CTs, however, studies have generally not empirically examined their influence on impacts. Other moderating contextual factors that likely play an important role in the magnitude of effects include quality and accessibility of schools and health facilities, and access to markets, among others.How can cash transfer design features be used to improve gender outcomes for adolescents?Overall, the evidence base shows that CTs promote healthy, safe, and productive transitions to adulthood for adolescents, under some circumstances. Programming that intentionally considers adolescent and gender vulnerabilities in their design can help further leverage benefits for stronger and potentially gender transformative effects. However, more research on the effectiveness of different design features is still needed. A brief review of existing programme design characteristics, examining the extent to which they are adolescent- or gender-responsive, can help identify future research priorities.  We discuss the following design features of CT programmes, including: targeting; transfer recipient; size; frequency and duration; conditions and messaging; and complementary interventions and linkages (also referred to as ‘Cash Plus’). 1. Targeting criteria and payment recipient Consideration of adolescent populations and gender in eligibility criteria has important implications on uptake of benefits and potential gender impacts. Numerous CT programmes target poor households with adolescents living in them. While adolescents may not be the primary focus of targeting, such household-targeted programmes may still have important spillover benefits. A smaller number of programmes directly target households with adolescents and can adopt gender- specific objectives (government programming still generally provides transfers to the head of the household or caregiver). For example, programmes can target households with boys or girls on the basis of their perceived greater vulnerability to specific risks related to gender (e.g., risk of dropout from school, early pregnancy, early marriage, violence prevention, etc.). These programmes can provide an important opportunity to meet adolescents’ practical needs for food, schooling, clothes, and healthcare, as well as boost their strategic position in families, provided that resources are shared equitably and reach adolescent members in the household  Programmes which have adolescent-focused objectives may need substantial messaging and communication targeted at community members and caregivers, to ensure households understand programme intent. Some non-governmental CT programmes have provided transfers directly to school-aged adolescent girls, however this has not yet been implemented in government programming and is likely not a politically feasible, scalable option, except in select settings. This approach aims to recognize adolescents as ‘rights holders’ and increase agency for girls who generally have more limited bargaining power in households compared to boys. Nevertheless, research on the links between cash and women’s empowerment highlights that explicit targeting and/or direct payments to females may not be sufficient to ensure their control over this income. Effects may be moderated by other programme design features, such as transfer size and payment delivery mechanisms, as well as contextual factors, including existing social and gender norms, the nature of family decision-making processes around resource allocations, and girls’ relationship with other members in the household. For example, mobile and/or electronic payments of transfers to clients can be used to improve clients’ control over income, enhance their financial inclusion and access to banking services, and provide greater privacy and discretion over how money is being used compared to plain cash delivery. Giving cash directly to girls, may also potentially lead to unintended effects, such as risk of economic coercion by other household members, and intra-household conflict resulting from disputes over spending decisions. There is very limited evidence on these dynamics in the households resulting from transfers directed to adolescent girls, due to the limited number of programmes which have done so. Yet, it is important to note that there has been similar speculation that CTs to adult women would create a backlash and put them at increased risk of IPV. However, a global review found that in fact CTs generally reduce women’s exposure to IPV. Overall, further research is needed to better understand how targeting (both household and individual-level approaches) can be designed to improve gender-equitable outcomes for adolescents, as well as the role that complementary design elements (e.g., electronic payments, messaging and safety provisions) can have in enhancing positive outcomes and minimizing unintended gender effects.  2. Transfer size and payment predictability  Setting benefits at the right levels and maintaining their real value are critical not only for achieving poverty-related outcomes, but also for achieving impacts on broader domains of well-being. Evidence from the Transfer Project generally shows that transfers equivalent to roughly 20% or more of baseline households monthly expenditures are required to improve broader outcomes beyond food security and consumption. Larger transfers can have positive spillover effects on girls, who are often more marginalised in household resource allocations. Recognising the potential benefits of increased transfer amounts to address gendered vulnerabilities among adolescents, some CTs provide top-up payments for households with adolescents enrolled in secondary school grades to promote gender parity in education. For example, a conditional CT in Mexico provides higher transfers for girls, while another in Jamaica provides higher payments for boys to compensate for the higher opportunity costs of their schooling as compared with girls. For older adolescents engaged in economic activities, larger transfers can help offset opportunity costs of engagement in wage labour, allowing them to increase their investments in education and training, as well as build their assets and savings, and strengthen their livelihood potential. These potential effects are particularly significant for girls who often face greater systemic barriers in access to, and control over productive resources, and more limited ability to accumulate assets compared to boys. Finally, predictable and well-timed payments can help households manage shocks and avoid harmful (and typically gendered) coping strategies to which adolescents are vulnerable in times of shocks and stresses, including reduced food intake, child marriage, being hired as domestic help, transactional sex, and hazardous child labour. 3. Conditionalities and messagingCT programmes often use conditions to encourage participants to increase their investments in health and education. Conditions may also be used to address discriminatory gender roles and harmful practices, such as early marriage. However, there is limited evidence on whether conditions improve outcomes, and with regards to school enrolment, a large review failed to demonstrate significant differences in impacts between conditional and unconditional CTs.Some studies highlight how ‘soft conditionalities’ and messaging can be just as effective in influencing positive behaviours and incentivizing families to invest in adolescents. For example, CTs in Morocco and Lesotho have used labeling to influence parents’ perceptions about the value of education and/or increase investments in education, leading to positive changes in the perceived returns of education for girls and investments in their education, as well as reductions in time spent on domestic work (in Lesotho). However, messaging which is too broad or gender-neutral may signal the wrong message, inadvertently reinforcing gender stereotypes or encouraging harmful behaviours. For example, this was demonstrated in the Indian conditional CT to delay child marriage, where households misunderstood the cash benefits as a way to supplement girls’ marriage costs rather than as a means for parents to value their daughter. Thus, it is important to consider the limited evidence on the effectiveness of conditions, ethical debates around paternalism, and the administrative burdens of enforcing conditions before promoting them in programming. Likewise, “labeling” and “messaging” efforts need to be well designed and staff need to be properly trained to effectively implement these measures in order to achieve intended results. 4. Complementary ‘Cash Plus’ interventions Despite broad-ranging benefits, there is increasing recognition that cash alone is not enough to address the multifaceted challenges faced by adolescents to transition to a safe, healthy, and productive adulthood. Some governments are now innovating with integrated programming to leverage impacts for adolescents. Depending on programme objectives, adolescents may be provided direct access to existing complementary health services, such as sexual and reproductive health information and services, treatment and testing for HIV (examples include Tanzania and Zambia) to improve their health capacities, and/or vocational training to improve their employment opportunities and livelihoods (Tanzania provides one example). Case management and the engagement of social welfare workers is also increasingly being used as a mechanism to identify needs and vulnerabilities of adolescents, such as violence or early marriage, and to facilitate referrals to corresponding services (examples can be found in Ethiopia and Mozambique).  A key factor for the success of these complementary components and services is supply-side availability and quality, including schools and health facilities, and livelihood opportunities/access to markets. Other factors, which can influence CT effectiveness, include structural gender barriers (i.e.  discriminatory norms and customs), which may be addressed through anti-discrimination legislation and behaviour change communication and media campaigns. To date, evidence on the effectiveness of the cash plus programming is very limited, and more research is needed. Conclusion and areas for future research CTs and integrated social protection programming can play an important role in shaping gender outcomes for adolescents, and subsequently facilitating safe, healthy and productive transitions to adulthood. However, in order to leverage the full potential of SP for these ends, more research is needed to understand the most effective programme design components and combinations of integrated programming. Some specific research questions for future consideration include the following: How do current SP programmes address gender-related vulnerabilities and facilitate safe transitions to adulthood, including impacts over the long-term and after programme support ends? What contextual factors moderate the impacts for adolescents of SP programming (e.g., gender norms, access to training, access to markets, financial inclusion)?How can programme design features (including transfer size and frequency, predictability and payment methods, and social accountability mechanisms, such as grievance mechanisms, among others) and additional measures and linkages be designed in a gender-transformative way to boost positive results for adolescent girls and boys?What are the trade-offs and unintended consequences of using conditions to influence behaviours through CT programming? Can the same positive effects be achieved through more rights-based measures, such as messaging or sensitization?What are the innovative evaluation methods that can be used to capture and measure the wellbeing and empowerment outcomes (including mental health, psychological wellbeing, autonomy, self-efficacy, confidence, life satisfaction, cognitive capacity) of adolescent girls and boys? To what extent can social protection address discriminatory gender norms, and through what pathways? Is social protection really the best (and cost effective) mechanism to address discriminatory norms and practices?Efforts to answer these questions could move policy initiatives towards increased gender- and adolescent-responsive programming.Download the bibliography#page-article-other .items h4.related-title { font-family: futura-pt-condensed,sans-serif; text-transform: uppercase; font-size: 150%; font-weight: medium; padding: 0; margin: 0; clear: both; color: #1CABE2; margin-bottom: 20px; visibility: hidden; position: relative; } h4.related-title:after { visibility: visible; position: absolute; content: "THINK PIECES"; top: 0; left: 0; }
Gendering the design and implementation of MGNREGA
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Gendering the design and implementation of MGNREGA

Disclaimer: The views expressed within this Think Piece are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of UNICEF. This Think Piece has not been edited to official publication standards and UNICEF accepts no responsibility for errors.Deepta Chopra, Institute of Development StudiesThe term ‘social protection’ describes how members of a society are supported and protected in the event of individual and collective adversities and distress. The recent Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have given social protection much importance – both as a critical instrument for poverty reduction (Goal 1), as well as achieving gender equality (Goal 5). Social protection can either be state-funded or privately-funded, and include the following types of instruments:provision measures, which provide relief from deprivation;preventive measures, which attempt to prevent deprivation;promotive measures, which aim to enhance incomes and capabilities; andtransformative measures, which seek to address concerns of social justice and exclusion.This think-piece concerns itself with the design and delivery of social protection programmes in order to enhance gender equality. As Chopra and Ugalde argue, gender-sensitive social protection measures can be transformative when they necessitate a recognition of women’s needs and priorities, as well as aim to reduce vulnerability through changes in social and economic structures.While social protection measures have not always or explicitly aimed to achieve gender equality, there is a strong link between the design and implementation of social protection measures, and the achievement of gender equality. Literature has highlighted the gendered differences in a) the risks and vulnerabilities that people face, and b) their coping mechanisms. Further, as Meinzen-Dick et al. argue, the gendered roles and responsibilities that women and men carry out within their homes also impact the type and extent of their vulnerabilities, the ways in which shocks are experienced, and their differential abilities and coping strategies. Gender-specific vulnerabilities are exacerbated by more systemic factors, such as unequal labour markets (particularly regarding lower labour market participation for women), differential access to assets, environmental risks, and expenses incurred as a result of ill health and life-cycle events, such as weddings and funerals.Sabates-Wheeler and Kabeer have delineated gender-related constraints into gender-specific, gender-intensified, and gender-imposed constraints. Gender-specific constraints refer to constraints resulting from varying roles, norms, values, and customs leading to different levels of labour market and household activities participation which in turn can result in disadvantaged positions by virtue of an individual’s gender (ibid). Gender-intensified constraints entail prevailing patterns of inequality which are exacerbated by ‘gender-specific beliefs and customs’. Again, such gender-intensified asymmetries can be tied to ascribed norms of social spaces and systems (ibid.). Lastly, imposed gender constraints describe activities that exhibit certain biases and prejudices outside social spaces such as the household or community, that can result in asymmetric allocations of resources and opportunities, for example discrimination in hiring processes (ibid).Building on Antonopoulos, Chopra and Ugalde have argued that the life-cycle approach to social protection is a useful way to think about social protection programmes that take into account these gendered constraints, needs and priorities  at different stages of people’s lives. But what does this mean in reality for the design and implementation of social protection programmes? This is the focus of this think piece, which evaluates a much-acclaimed programme, India’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), against the principles of a gendered life-cycle approach to social protection. I first examine the design features of the MGNREGA, assessing the extent to which these design features take into account gender-specific, gender-intensified and gender-imposed constraints at different stages of women and girls’ lives. This think piece also draws on recent research on the implementation of this Act to understand how these design features deliver gender equality in practice. In doing so, I aim to draw out some lessons for building gender into the design and delivery of public works programmes specifically, and social protection programmes more generally, in order to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment.A gendered assessment of the design features of the MGNREGAThe MGNREGA has the following key gender-sensitive provisions:one-third reservation at worksites for womenequal wages to men and womenspecific works for pregnant and lactating womenreservations in central and state employment guarantee councilsprovision of crèche and child carer on worksite, andprovision of safe drinking water for all, periods of rest, first aid, and shade for children.In addition, the Act’s operational guidelines lay out preferential treatment for women to work closer to their residence, preference for women as mates (work supervisors), and help for opening bank accounts.These design features specifically address women’s differential roles – not only as workers and beneficiaries, but also as carers. The Act seeks to cater to the needs of women at different stages of their life-cycle at the work place – especially supporting them through physically less-strenuous tasks, breaks etc. during pregnancy; providing tasks such as child-carer for older women; and setting up crèches for children at the workplace. Preferential treatment in getting work closer to women’s residence also reflects the recognition of women’s unpaid care work roles and responsibilities and addresses gender-related constraints of mobility.   In setting out the provision for one-third reservations of women workers, the MGNREGA specifically seeks to address gender-imposed constraints in the hiring of workers. In fact, in providing reservations and equal wages, the MGNREGA addresses women’s vulnerability as workers in least-protected sectors. It is therefore an important and positive step in engendering social protection. The Act’s design also takes into account women’s disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care work through provision of childcare facilities and work closer to the home.However, it is interesting to note that the overall work entitlement in MGNREGA is based on a household – with each rural household being entitled to 100 days of work. In this way, the MGNREGA leaves open the possibility of bargaining at the household level in terms of who gets employment through this Act. In doing so, the Act pre-supposes a model of co-operation and bargaining amongst men and women as equal members of the household. It can thus be concluded that the Act does not address the gender-imposed constraints that women face within the household. Instead, it reflects the false assumption prevalent in many social protection programmes, of women being able to gain access to social protection through their family structures, ‘pivoting on their relationship to either a husband or father’. It was only after much pressure that the very definition of ‘household’ was expanded to include single-women households in the Act.Finally, while the MGNREGA design takes into account specific life-cycle constraints such as pregnancy, the very nature of the work (hard, physical, manual labour) does not give due consideration to the intense and often-depleting nature of this work. There are no links to infrastructure provision, for example, transport to work sites (which is safe, reliable and quick). In addition, the low level of wages (minimum wages which are output and task-based), and the lack of provision of insurance to workers all point to MGNREGA’s design features falling short of addressing the gendered nature of labour markets.Interestingly, the MGNREGA’s design features reflect a critical aspect of women’s role as decision-makers outside their household. There are provisions for women’s participation in local governance institutions to decide the types of work to be carried out. The reservations for women in central and state councils, and appropriate timings for social audits that allow women to participate, are all reflective of the importance that the Act gives to considering women as citizens/ decision-makers. At the same time, MGNREGA design fails to counter structural constraints such as gender norms that restrict women’s voice and mobility in these collective/ public spaces. Provisions to counter restrictions on women’s voice and participation in community-level decision making regarding the type and location of works would have been critical in recognising and addressing these structural constraints.Assessing the Implementation of MGNREGA using a gender lensSocial protection programmes need to have gender-sensitive implementation mechanisms in place in order to effect gender-transformative outcomes. Research into the MGNREGA implementation has shown that while the MGNREGA goes a long way in terms of gender-sensitive design, its implementation falls substantially short of this objective.This is not to say that MGNREGA has not improved lives of women – to the contrary in fact.  Women have participated in high numbers, thereby showing the success of the reservation clause. Their participation is also accompanied by a large number of bank accounts, although control over wages by women is complicated by various factors, as has been shown in various studies such as  Sudarshan and Khera and Nayak, reflecting active contestations around gender roles and norms. However, it is also evident that this reservation clause in many places has been taken as the maximum number of women allowed to participate in the programme. Preference is also given to able-bodied women, and there are reports of pregnant and lactating mothers being turned away from worksites.  Overall however, it can be argued that the implementation of MGNREGA is far from being gender-sensitive or contributing to women’s empowerment. While the Act offers 100 days of employment, women work only if they have to. Women who can afford to also choose to not work or drop out of MGNREGA work, often because of lack of childcare and infrastructure. While there have been differential schedule of rates adopted in some states women in most states remain disadvantaged by MGNREGA’s adherence to group and task-based payments. This system also discriminates against women at different stages of their life-cycle, with pregnant and lactating women, and elderly women being less preferred or paid minimally. The nature of work that women and men do itself is deeply gendered, and shaped by gender norms around roles and tasks – men do most of the digging work, while women are responsible for the lifting and moving of soil. In fact, this then translates to men being paid better as digging is perceived to be harder work than lifting and moving soil. In addition, drudgery in the nature of the work under the MGNREGA with very low returns, and the lack of support for their unpaid care work responsibilities, have left women exhausted and physically and emotionally depleted. Furthermore, despite equal participation of women as workers in the Act at many places, progress on provisions such as appointment of female mates remains patchy. The largely patriarchal make-up of rural India deepens the divide between female workers and male mates and engineers.Lack of gender-sensitisation training amongst programme implementers, lack of staff and capacity, and lack of funds, have also translated into a lack of the crèche provision – which is a blatant violation of the spirit and letter of the Act. This provision is not monitored, even amidst an otherwise intensive M&E system – contributing to and reinforcing the non-implementation of this crucial clause. As a result of no childcare at the workplace, studies have shown how women leave behind younger children with older siblings or with older women, or carry them to the workplace with them, exposing them to hazardous conditions. Lack of infrastructure such as electricity, water, and fuel in villages also constrained women’s time and energy to participate in the works, as well as in decision-making processes around the Act. There are no provisions within MGNREGA to make connections with public services such as water, electricity, and gas.The provision of women’s participation in community-level decision making processes for selection of type and location of works is scarcely implemented. Gendered norms pertaining to women’s mobility and voice have resulted in either a lack of women’s participation in these planning processes or rendered them silent spectators. State and central employment guarantee councils are largely defunct, and therefore again, women’s participation in these structures is non-existent. Finally, the individualistic empowerment that social protection programmes such as MGNREGA offer, are neither sustainable nor desirable. Zaidi et al. found prevalence of girls being taken out of school to undertake domestic chores and sibling care, while their mothers worked under MGNREGA. Absence of childcare facilities at worksites, and lack of flexible timings reflect the gender biases inherent in the implementation mechanisms of MGNREGA which consider the ideal MGNREGA worker as male and therefore unfettered by unpaid care work responsibilities. This also goes against the life-cycle approach that a gendered approach to social protection entails, instead creating a vicious cycle of inter-generational inequality.Lessons for gender-sensitive social protection programmesAs noted above, the MGNREGA’s design has innovative and adequate provisions on gender, and thereby a strong potential for effecting transformative change in gender power relations. However, ‘gender-sensitive design does not always translate into gender-equitable outcomes’. Using a life-cycle approach and considering the ways in which social protection programmes can address gender-specific, gender-intensified and gender-imposed constraints at different stages of women and girls’ lives is critical in order to ensure that the design and delivery of social protection programmes is gender-sensitive. Some lessons for transformative, gender-sensitive social protection that can be drawn out from literature and from the above discussion are:‘Gender-sensitivity’ cannot translate to looking at women as the main beneficiaries. Instead, a concerted effort is needed to understand and address the gendered risks and vulnerabilities that arise from women’s varying roles – as workers/ producers, as carers and as decision-makers, is critical.In considering women’s roles as workers, the design and implementation of social protection programmes need to address structural barriers and gendered divisions of labour within and outside the home, and not pre-suppose women as primary carers and men as the ‘workers’. It is also crucial for social protection programmes to take into account women’s disproportionate share of unpaid care work responsibilities. Without doing this, social protection programmes risk reinforcing gender roles, and deepening the depletion that women face in their lives.Further, a paternalistic approach to beneficiaries undermines rights-based approaches and fails to foster ‘women’s consciousness as full citizens – as shown in Holmes and Jones and Jones et al. It is therefore crucial that social protection programmes promote and realise, both in design and implementation, the substantive participation of women as decision-makers.Participation in social protection programmes is not cost-free. As Britto and Molyneux and Thompson argue, social protection programmes often ignore the costs of women’s involvement in terms of time and energy spent accessing the programme (including transfers, insurance and work), and therefore underestimate the little time that is left for other productive and caring activities This creates a risk of falling participation rates, reduced spread of the programme, but also adds to women’s work burdens and exacerbates their depletion.Social protection programmes need to expand their attention beyond individual women as recipients and situate women within their social milieu. This involves ensuring meaningful participation of women in programme design and implementation. This also necessitates visualising the roles that younger girls and older women play in women’s lives, so that the displacement of roles and responsibilities from the individual women is recognised and addressed.Social protection programme benefits are often too small to make a difference to women’s lives even economically. These benefits are also subject to negotiations and contestations within the household. The design of social protection programmes needs to take into account women’s needs, vulnerabilities and bargaining power within households, to ensure that benefits accrue to them and are useful.Gender-sensitisation and training of implementing staff are key in order to ensure that gender-sensitive provisions of social protection programmes are implemented adequately and with commitment, rather than as an additional add-on that over-burdened social protection staff need to undertake.Monitoring of gender-provisions is crucial to ensuring accountability and therefore effective implementation. This monitoring needs to go beyond counting women participants, to actually assessing and recording changes in women’s lives because of the social protection programme.Gender-sensitive social protection design and implementation in itself is critical within the parameters of specific programme objectives, design and implementation processes. Equally important however, are the links that such social protection programmes can make to other programmes and services, specifically infrastructure and public services, in order to help overcome the multitude of gendered constraints that women face.In summary, a transformative and gender-sensitive approach to social protection has the potential to foster gender equality and promote women’s empowerment. This approach acknowledges three critical aspects: a) firstly, the inter-twined roles that women play as workers, carers and decision-makers that need to be catered for by social protection; b) that gender inequality itself is a source of vulnerability and risk, manifested in the form of gender-specific, gender-intensified and gender-imposed constraints, as well as shape coping mechanisms differently; and c) that these risks, vulnerabilities, and therefore needs, have life-cycle variations, which need to be catered through social protection programmes following a life-cycle approach.Finally, more research that tracks and demonstrates the gendered impacts (both positive and negative) of the implementation (or non-implementation) of social protection programmes and provisions is critical. This will help create a body of evidence around good practice principles of what works in gendering social protection programmes and promoting women’s empowerment.Download the bibliography#page-article-other .items h4.related-title { font-family: futura-pt-condensed,sans-serif; text-transform: uppercase; font-size: 150%; font-weight: medium; padding: 0; margin: 0; clear: both; color: #1CABE2; margin-bottom: 20px; visibility: hidden; position: relative; } h4.related-title:after { visibility: visible; position: absolute; content: "THINK PIECES"; top: 0; left: 0; }
Towards gender equality in social protection. Evidence gaps and priority research questions
Article Article

Towards gender equality in social protection. Evidence gaps and priority research questions

Disclaimer: The views expressed within this Think Piece are those of the author(s)and do not necessarily represent the views of UNICEF. This Think Piece has not been edited to official publication standards and UNICEF accepts no responsibility for errors.Amber Peterman, UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti, Neha Kumar, Audrey Pereira & Daniel O. Gilligan, International Food Policy Research InstituteMotivation and framingSocial protection is a leading strategy for addressing poverty, vulnerability to shocks, and under investment in human capital at-scale in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Its popularity among governments is due in part to evidence showing that social protection is effective at bolstering household consumption and food security, and increasing investments in productive assets and education, among others. Poverty, vulnerability and well-being have inherent gender dimensions, thus it is not surprising that gender considerations have historically shaped certain design features of social protection in LMICs. Since the late 1990s, with the emergence of conditional cash transfers (CCTs) as social welfare policies in Latin America, women were typically targeted instrumentally as a way to achieve main programme goals related to improving human capital of children. More recently, the narrative has expanded to acknowledge the intrinsic value of increasing gender equality and facilitating women’s empowerment. In 2016, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) identified social protection policies as vital to achieving targets under Goal 5 (gender equity and empowerment of women and girls), in addition to calling for minimum social protection coverage, by sex and age, as part of Goal 1 (end poverty and inequality). In 2018, the Social Protection Inter-Agency Cooperation Board of the International Labour Organization (ILO) formed its first ever working group on gender in preparation for the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), with a priority theme that included social protection systems. Through preparation for CSW, background papers have addressed the importance of social protection to address gender dimensions of wellbeing. Thus, social protection, a policy instrument which has been traditionally promoted for its role in reducing poverty and vulnerability, is now also being recognised for its potential contributions to gender equality. Given this recent focus on gender, it is worth reflecting on the breadth of rigorous evidence available to guide programming to achieve these goals. The majority of papers commissioned in anticipation of CSW to inform whether social protection is achieving results for women were conceptual, or summarized ‘promising’ case studies, rather than providing a comprehensive and critical assessment of impacts. However, recent reviews of cross-country evidence broadly agree on a number of conclusions, particularly that, although there is promise for some forms of social protection to facilitate gender-equality and empowerment of women, this is far from automatic. For many domains of women’s wellbeing, evidence is still limited and additional research is needed. Further, since social protection broadly has poverty objectives, there has been less commitment to exploring both programme design and innovative research to explore the potential for closing gender gaps.While an impressive number of research efforts are ongoing—and will contribute to knowledge in the coming years—based on the current evidence landscape, we present our view of five priority research gaps (beginning with highest importance) to advance understanding of how to leverage social protection for gender equality and the wellbeing of women and girls. Gap 1: Evaluations able to unpack the contribution of design components across social protection instruments to improvements in gender equalityA recurring theme across reviews is the inability to make concrete design recommendations based on existing research. Understanding design options and their differential effects on men and women (and boys and girls) is essential, as most large-scale programmes are still not designed with gender in mind; gender is neither the core business of social protection, nor is it typically a priority for large-scale implementation. Therefore, to move from ‘gender blind’ programming towards ‘gender transformative’ approaches, a nuanced understanding of design options is needed. Yet, current guidance on design and implementation is largely built around case studies of successful programmes and policies, without developing an understanding of how outcomes would differ under alternative programme designs. For example, in a recent quantitative review of social safety nets in Africa, we considered a number of design features of hypothesized importance for gender equality, including: 1) gender-based targeting, 2) conditionalities and behavioural features (e.g. labeling, nudges, messaging), 3) payments and transfer mechanisms, 4) integrated approaches, and 5) gender-aware operational features. Across design features, there were few studies able to assess differential impacts on women’s wellbeing outcomes. This lack of evidence across key programme features means that we often have little persuasive power to change programme design (often at a cost) along the continuum towards gender-transformative approaches, as we cannot foresee the expected differential effects. For example, although integrated and ‘plus’ approaches are becoming popular for their potential positive and synergistic impacts, there is very little evidence of their comparative effectiveness. Until more is known, incentives are low for large-scale social protection programmes to take on additional components, often already served by vertical programming, at the expense of expansion of the core coverage to more beneficiaries. As another example, we know that cash transfers reduce intimate partner violence, a severe form of gender discrimination, yet we do not know which design features will maximize reductions, as evaluations have not been designed to test these features. To fill these gaps, we need both interventions which experiment with gender transformative components, as well as high quality evaluations with intent to capture differential design effects. The challenge to generating this evidence is primarily a methodological (design) challenge. Often implementers are unable or unwilling to experiment for the purpose of research in a way that allows evaluation of design features. In addition, it can be more costly to undertake studies with the complexity of research designs that are required to evaluate programme features. Gap 2: Region-specific evidence and evidence synthesis Past evidence reviews from LMICs, particularly on social safety nets and cash transfers, tend to be regionally skewed towards Latin America, where modern cash transfer programmes first gained prominence. However, as more evidence is generated, this is changing. Because programme design, poverty dynamics, and gender norms underlying potential for impact vary by region, regional-specific learning is needed. For example, Africa is likely to have both higher levels and depth of poverty, and less access to services and infrastructure as compared to Latin America. In addition, populations in Africa are more likely to live in areas which are drought or conflict prone, with the accompanying breakdown of routine services and governance structures. Due to these factors, social protection in Africa has traditionally had greater focus on resilience and shock-responsivity, and fewer punitive co-responsibilities related to service provision (which require intensive monitoring). From a gender perspective, Africa is unique in a number of important ways related to social norms and demographics. For example, there are higher percentages of HIV-affected households (including orphans and vulnerable children), higher fertility rates, and early marriage transitions, including into polygamous marriages in Africa. Due to the wide diversity of programme typologies and objectives, women have not necessarily been targeted instrumentally as recipients of social protection and safety nets in Africa, as they have in Latin America, however coverage by sex may vary by programme type. These unique regional considerations translate into opportunities as well as potential restrictions on how social protection can be leveraged for gender equality, which global generalizations overlook. For example, Bastagli and colleagues review cash transfer impacts from LMICs and conclude there is strong evidence on women’s empowerment and decision-making increases specifically. However, we review similar indicators focusing on new evidence from Africa and find relatively weak evidence for changes in women’s empowerment and decision-making. South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East have comparable idiosyncrasies with respect to gender norms, poverty, and programme design, which make them distinct. As social protection evolves to become more complex, so will our need for regional evidence and evidence synthesis reflecting gender realities and norms to make informed programme/policy recommendations. At the national level, it is important to understand the social protection system within the country and how social protection is being and can be leveraged for greater impact on women’s wellbeing outcomes. Evaluating social protection systems, however, is challenging within a quantitative impact evaluation framework, and thus the majority of evaluation evidence available is focused on programmes (e.g. social safety nets, including cash transfers), rather than on effects of social protection system integration per se. Thus, while more comprehensive knowledge on functioning of national systems is relevant and necessary for understanding holistic impacts across populations and lifecycle stages, this type of knowledge needs to be built using institutional or political economy analysis or a case study approach.Gap 3: Better indicators and intra-household gender-analysis (what gets measured gets done?)A common theme among gender researchers and advocates across sectors is the need for better indicators, measurement and analysis by gender—research on social protection is no different. There is currently little understanding of coverage of social protection by sex in LMICs, and the majority of evaluations conduct minimal gender-disaggregated analysis. For example, many indicators are still collected at the household level (e.g. poverty, food security, productivity), despite well documented intra-household disparities. Further, analysis is often done comparing male- versus female-headed households, rather than contrasting men and women within the same household. Some of these gaps are simply a result of practicalities. Evaluations often need to prioritize key outcomes (domains) of interest in line with programme objectives to manage workload; questionnaires easily become overloaded and lengthy, overburdening participants. It is significantly more costly to interview two adults within a household, particularly if same sex enumerators are needed. Another challenge revolves around measurement, particularly of domains which are less traditionally measured in quantitative surveys, including ‘empowerment’, ‘autonomy’, ‘confidence’, and ‘gender norms’. For example, a new generation of impact evaluations specifically designed around gender issues are underway, which will expand the evidence base and provide some of the first rigorous evidence measuring women’s empowerment using holistic scales, like the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI). However, validation and local adaptation of rigorous measures to capture these complex concepts is needed to be able to measure power dynamics among diverse populations and settings. While qualitative work, as used to complement the WEAI impact evaluations, can help fill gaps in quantitative evaluations, mixed method work is still an exception, rather than the norm, and multiple types of evidence are needed to inform and influence diverse stakeholders. Further, low quality research, including poor measurement and biased analysis can result in misleading conclusions and sub-optimal policy decisions. Without proper measurement, indicators and analysis of important gender-related concepts within evaluations, and a budget to accommodate them, we will be unable fulfill the potential of evidence for change.   Gap 4: Cost-effectiveness, value for money and benchmarking A cross-cutting theme critical to ensuring sustainability, expansion, programme design and implementation is value for money (including cost-efficiency and cost-effectiveness). While not generally considered a methodology critical for gender analysis, a better understanding of value for money ultimately tells us how well programme costs are converting to intended programme outcomes and impacts. To make comparisons across programme designs, and across outcomes, measuring cost-effectiveness will be essential in weighing trade-offs for more inclusive impacts. In addition, benchmarking to other economic programmes and policies is needed to fully understand the trade-offs between different implementation strategies a government may pursue to fulfill poverty objectives. Traditionally, programmes like social protection have faced methodological challenges in calculating comprehensive benefits in relation to costs due to the need to standardize and aggregate the latter across diverse outcome groups (e.g. health, education, food security). However, benchmarking techniques whereby different types of programmes (e.g. cash transfer vs. graduation programme) are contrasted within the same budget envelope offer one alternative to address this challenge, though issues with aggregation of benefits across a range of outcomes still exist. Without cost effectiveness measures, gender transformative programmes are likely always to appear more costly to implement and therefore less sustainable and more difficult to scale in the long run. In addition, value for money analysis may help ensure sustainability of gender-aware programmes within the national political and fiscal discourse. For example, the Mexican government’s recent decision to end the PROSPERA programme (formerly, Opportunidades and Progresa) was due in part to a loss of political support for continued spending on the programme. Although PROSPERA and its antecedents are among the most studied programmes in the world, better evidence of its cost-effectiveness may have strengthened the political case to keep this and similar programmes in Latin America. In sum, a better understanding of value for money would help identify the most efficient avenues for investment, which both are efficient at meeting gender objectives, as well as other programme priorities. Gap 5: Future-looking policies and implementation featuresThe social protection field has advanced significantly over the past decade and is expected to be one of the key responses to poverty, vulnerability and exclusion during the SDG era. For research to stay relevant, it must always be forward-looking to anticipate future questions stakeholders may have. It is therefore useful to explicitly consider how future-looking policies and implementation features will interact with gender dynamics at the outset. These include, but are not limited to, the increased use of social protection in crisis settings, movement towards universal basic income (UBI), mobile technology and blockchain, micro-insurance, as well as effects on biological outcomes such as cognitive functioning, and macro-level processes (e.g. migration, urbanization, environmental and planetary health). For example, at least one small-scale NGO-led cash transfer programme run in Niger showed that transfers via mobile money conferred additional benefits to women—via time saving and ability to retain control of transfers—however we have little information if these benefits are consistently observed in larger-scale programming. Innovative programming and research based on technological advancements and in the most challenging acute disaster settings are increasingly being tested. Understanding gender implications should be part of these first effects to inform potential scale-up or expansion of programming. SummaryDespite high-level commitments made by global stakeholders to advancing gender equity and equality through social protection, and the important role of this shared objective, there remains significant evidence gaps in understanding what this means in practice. We have proposed five priority evidence gaps to advance this understanding, related to: 1) programme design, 2) regional knowledge, 3) measurement and analysis, 4) cost effectiveness, and 5) future-looking issues. These priorities do not operate in isolation; each interacts with and should be considered alongside the others. We acknowledge that they are not exhaustive and are influenced by the type of research and viewpoints we bring to the intersection of social protection and gender. For example, understanding long-term, lifecycle, and intergenerational effects are certainly of importance, despite not being included as a top priority here. In many ways, setting out a research agenda for leveraging social protection for gender equality is similar to one which simply aims to make systems and programmes work better overall—no programme can fulfill objectives of poverty, inequality, and vulnerability while leaving half the population behind. We look forward to helping close these gaps.  Download the bibliographyAcknowledgements: This think piece draws heavily on concepts in a related chapter: Peterman, A., Kumar, N., Pereira, A. and Gilligan D. “Towards Gender Equality: A critical assessment of evidence on Social Safety Nets in Africa.” prepared as a chapter for the Annual Trends and Outlook Report (ATOR), “Gender Parity in Rural Africa: From Commitments to Outcomes” Quisumbing, A., Meinzen-Dick, R. and Njuki, J. (Eds). The chapter was undertaken with funding support from the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). #page-article-other .items h4.related-title { font-family: futura-pt-condensed,sans-serif; text-transform: uppercase; font-size: 150%; font-weight: medium; padding: 0; margin: 0; clear: both; color: #1CABE2; margin-bottom: 20px; visibility: hidden; position: relative; } h4.related-title:after { visibility: visible; position: absolute; content: "THINK PIECES"; top: 0; left: 0; }
Promoting women’s economic empowerment through social protection. Lessons from the productive social safety net program in Tanzania
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Promoting women’s economic empowerment through social protection. Lessons from the productive social safety net program in Tanzania

Disclaimer: The views expressed within this Think Piece are those of the author(s)and do not necessarily represent the views of UNICEF. This Think Piece has not been edited to official publication standards and UNICEF accepts no responsibility for errors.Flora Myamba, Social Protection and Gender ExpertSafety net programmes around the world have proven positive impacts for gender equality (GE) and women’s economic empowerment (WEE), including (but not limited to): i) enabling women’s access to small productive assets such as livestock, as well as (in the long term)  assets like land via access to credit; ii) promoting access to both formal and informal credit for both men and women, as the schemes’ regular payments may be considered a loan guarantee; iii) in some cases, cash transfers to female-headed households lead to larger economic gains, because such households invest more in economic assets; and iv) increasing women’s decision-making power and choices, including those on marriage and fertility, and reducing physical abuse by male partners, among other benefits.Achieving GE and WEE through social protection programmes is essential not only as a right but also as gateway to realizing broader long-term development goals including education, health, and other social and economic strategies for the women, households, and community at large. Gender equality in this case refers to the equal rights, responsibilities, and opportunities of women, men, girls, and boys. Equality does not mean that women and men will become the same but rather that women’s and men’s rights, responsibilities, and opportunities will not depend on whether they are born male or female. Women’s economic empowerment in this paper is defined in terms of: i) women’s ability to succeed and advance economically through acquiring the right skills and resources to compete in markets and gain equal access to economic opportunities; and ii) women’s power to make and act on economic decisions, which goes hand-in-hand with control of resources and benefit from profits.Globally there has been a great move to direct social protection, particularly non-contributory programme cash and other benefits, towards women in order to promote GE and WEE. As an example, Campos lists the following programmes as having successfully taken a broader approach to GE/WEE and to enabled women to become more economically empowered: Bangladesh’s Asset Transfer Programme (goal: increase women’s bargaining power); Ethiopia’s PSNP (goal: support women’s role in agriculture in addition to their role in food security); Mexico’s Programme for Youth and Women Land and Asset Programme (goal: increase access to land); Mexico’s subsidized crèche scheme, Estancias; Ghana’s Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP); El Salvador’s Ciudad Mujer Programme. Developing countries, particularly the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are generally slower to develop gender responsive social policies and related intervention programmes but they continue to make progress. Tanzania is no exception. Despite the government’s efforts, the prevailing cultural and social norms remain a central cause for disproportionately disadvantaging women and creating multiple constraints for them, including: limited ownership, access to, and control of long-term assets, resources and services; labour market exclusion; high levels of illiteracy and numeracy incapability; limited access to income and decision making over expenditures; high fertility rates and high unmet needs for contraception and sexual and reproductive health education; overburdened with unpaid domestic work; and limited access to financial services; among others. Social norms continue to play a big role in determining bargaining power within a household. Limited control over resources and assets and their lack of power and autonomy does not only constrain women’s wellbeing, but the wellbeing of their households and the community as a whole. The Productive Social Safety Net (PSSN) Programme implemented through a designated government agency, Tanzania Social Action Fund (TASAF), has made a historical and exemplary step in address gender equality and women’s economic empowerment. It presents one of the best practices worth learning from in promoting and moving GE/WEE forward. What can we learn from the Productive Social Safety Net Programme?The PSSN implements conditional cash transfers (CCT), public works programme (PWP) and livelihood enhancement (LE).  Since rollout in 2012, PSSN has benefitted 1.1million households (51% female-headed) and around 5.4million individuals (52% being female), and is expected to expand to 1.4 million household through PSSN Phase II (2019-2022) starting July 2019.  When piloted, the PSSN (as Community-Based Conditional Cash Transfer, 2009) programme cash was paid to the heads of household, most of whom are husbands/male partners. This process was changed after cases emerged of inappropriate spending of CCT funds by male recipients, principally on alcohol and mistresses. Learning from successful social protection programmes as Progresa/Oportunidades in Mexico, Bolsa Familia in Brazil, and Viet Nam among others, TASAF decided that women or wives would start receiving and managing the cash benefits on behalf of the household. To date, 83% of PSSN cash recipients are women. This was an important initiative and a turning point in the journey to break through a very strong negative gender norm. It must be stressed however, that simply making women the formal recipients of cash transfers does not necessarily empower them. As Bastagli et al point out, even if women are the formal recipients of transfers, gender-based power dynamics in the household may determine who decides how to spend the income. An important finding from the evidence, is that where social norms constrain women’s control over resources, they may not benefit as much as men from traditional transfers or grants. Evidence on Gender Equality / Women's Economic Empowerment through PSSNThe evidence presented heavily draws from UNDP’s (Social Protection through a Gender Lens: A Gender Assessment of Tanzania’s Productive Social Safety Nets, 2018) assessment of gender mainstreaming within PSSN, which documented both positive and unintended negative results, including but not limited to the following: Generally, paying the programme cash to women has helped leverage the rational use of the programme benefits on intended activities and minimized intra-household conflicts resulting from male domination and control of resources. The minimized conflict has largely been due to better availability of programme resources to cover basic expenses and due to compliance requirements for fear of losing programme benefits. Acceptance of women & girls as transfer beneficiaries: The strategy of targeting women as recipients of cash benefits has become widely accepted and perceived to benefit the whole household. Targeting women contributed to increasing women’s standing and respect within the community and households. However, this may not necessarily improve gender-based power dynamics or lead to greater GE/WEE because social norms still clearly define the boundaries for women’s decision-making space.Many women participate in local PSSN decision-making: There was a strong representation of women in the Community Management Committees (CMC) (half-female, half-male) which are responsible for managing the implementation and monitoring of the PSSN programme at the village level. This appears to have  enabled women to raise their voices and air their views and concerns. PSSN boosted women’s savings, ownership of assets and diversified livelihoods: While men invested in animal husbandry and land ownership, women focused their investments in smaller, short-term, temporary, and more unsustainable projects like raising chicken and goats.UNICEF further reported that PSSN increased contraceptive knowledge among females (but not males): however it had no impact on contraceptive use and there were no impacts on fertility, which supports existing evidence that cash transfer programmes do not increase fertility but the existing high fertility rates have potential for negative effects on social protection programmes.One of the major unintended results reported by the UNDP study is the increased workload for women due to the programme design and conditionalities reinforced by gender roles or stereotypes. Women were regarded as having responsibility for compliance with conditions on health (which requires women to take children to a health clinic) and education (time spent by mothers ensuring children have the necessities for attending school). Even more time is spent given challenges on resources and services in education and health facilities. This was similarly the case for women participating in public works and saving groups. The study further documented the absence of a gender strategy, including monitoring and evaluation and a results framework. Hence, while gender was supposed to be addressed as a cross-cutting issue, there were no relevant guidelines, checklists for implementation, or specific gender training modules or staff training on gender. A gender strategy or gender action plan was therefore recommended for PSSN.The (New) Gender Action PlanFollowing these findings, in 2018 TASAF and development partners committed to develop “gender provisions linked to all components of the programme and prepare a specific action plan to include in the PSSN II design document”, the Gender Action Plan (GAP) (TASAF AIDE MEMOIRE April 16-27, 2018: article 41). The already developed GAP flags key issues in the design and implementation of the PSSN II from the perspective of women’s economic empowerment, drawing on experience and evidence from PSSN I and global lessons. It is anchored in the national Women and Gender Development Policy (2000) and the National Strategy for Gender Development (2008), aiming to ensure the inclusion of gender dimensions in all government policies, programmes, and strategies. Among the key action points of the GAP include:Create a competent and functional Gender Team within TASAF.      PSSN personnel at the programme, regional, district, and community levels must undergo gender training.          Integrate GE/WEE objectives into the design and implementation of cash transfer, public works and livelihoods.Strategic integration of Digitize, Direct & Design (D3 for women) principles into the PSSN II.         Enhance women’s rights, control over household resources, and decision-making at home and in the community.Develop a targeting system that addresses caring needs e.g. of people with disability and elderly.Develop a grievance reporting system that responds to the needs of women.Conclusion and Way ForwardMuch can be learned from TASAF’s exemplary journey in deliberately promoting GE/WEE for PSSN beneficiaries to date. This strongly coincides with the global experience suggesting that social protection programmes can accelerate GE and WEE through expanding opportunities for paid work, boosting ownership of productive assets, enhancing the control over incomes, increasing social networks, and raising awareness of women’s rights. Such gains do not flow automatically. The GE/WEE-responsive design of PSSN II and implementation strategies, together with the country context, will affect the extent to which these potential gains can be realized in practice. A gender norms lens is a major criterion for the design of any sustainable and gender-responsive social protection programme. As Newton argues, a gender lens is not an optional add-on, but an integral part of social protection policy and programming if it is to achieve long-term sustainable change. SP programmes should set criteria which are geared towards breaking through any negative gender norms, including directing benefits to women in the first place. As such, a careful review of the conditionalities required for cash transfers, public works and livelihoods, as well as strategies for balancing men and women’s workload, remain important.Capacity strengthening at all levels, as wellas  community sensitization and awareness to the role of both men and women in promoting gender equality and women’s economic empowerment, are both key. This also means social protection programmes must budget for regular trainings, workshops, dialogues, and the like, inclusive to both men and women to fulfil this goal. Commitment and priority in financing gender-responsive social protection is key and most important. Governments should mobilise and equitably allocate resources to ensure effective implementation and maximum programme outcomes in both quality and quantity. This includes expanding domestic revenues through progressive taxes and other alternative financing mechanisms, such as increasing taxes on harmful products like  cigarettes, alcohol, sugars, petroleum and investing it on social protection. Learnings from such initiatives in Philippines, Bolivia, Zambia, Egypt can be adopted.Similarly, Brazil taxes financial sector transactions and uses the revenue to expand social protection coverage. The role of development partners remains important, however, sustainability is enhanced as donor funding shrinks and governments expand domestic revenues and investment in social protection.Download the bibliography#page-article-other .items h4.related-title { font-family: futura-pt-condensed,sans-serif; text-transform: uppercase; font-size: 150%; font-weight: medium; padding: 0; margin: 0; clear: both; color: #1CABE2; margin-bottom: 20px; visibility: hidden; position: relative; } h4.related-title:after { visibility: visible; position: absolute; content: "THINK PIECES"; top: 0; left: 0; }
Gender and social protection in South Asia. An assessment of non-contributory programmes
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Gender and social protection in South Asia. An assessment of non-contributory programmes

Disclaimer: The views expressed within this Think Piece are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of UNICEF. This Think Piece has not been edited to official publication standards and UNICEF accepts no responsibility for errors.Raquel Tebaldi and Charlotte Bilo, International Policy Centre for Inclusive GrowthSocial protection has received increased attention as a measure to reduce poverty and vulnerability and achieve social transformation, including the reduction of gender inequality. As put forward by the Social Protection Inter-Agency Cooperation Board (SPIAC-B), in order to contribute to gender equality, social protection systems should address life cycle risks, increase access to services and sustainable infrastructure, and promote women’s and girls’ economic empowerment, voice, and agency.Although South Asia has made remarkable progress in terms of human development in recent years, the region still faces significant gender disparities. Discriminatory social norms and structural factors result in a neglect of girls and women’s rights throughout all areas of life. As a consequence, girls and women continue to face serious challenges in terms of health, nutrition, education and employment. Harmful gender norms also manifest themselves in women’s risk to early and forced marriage and gender-based violence. Therefore, social protection systems that respond to these risks are of utmost importance in the region.Against this background, the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) and UNICEF’s Regional Office for South Asia have partnered to analyse the extent to which South Asia’s non-contributory social protection programmes have been designed in a gender-sensitive way. A total of 50 programmes were analysed across the eight countries in the region: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. In addition, the aim of the research was to review the evidence regarding the programmes’ impact on gender outcomes and norms. This think piece is based on the report ‘Gender and social protection in South Asia: an assessment of the design of non-contributory programmes’ and summarises its main findings. Methodology The assessment of the programmes’ design features was based on information publicly available in English, including government websites, programme manuals, and reports published by third parties. For the criteria it was drawn on the most up-to-date toolkits and guidelines produced by international organisations, such as FAO, UN Women, ODI, and the IPC-IG. The following questions were addressed for each individual programme: Are gender equality issues or awareness of gender-based vulnerabilities reflected in the programme’s objectives? If yes, which? Are gender- and age-specific vulnerabilities taken into account in the targeting process? Have specific outreach and/or communication activities been conducted to reach particularly vulnerable groups and inform citizens about the programme? Which delivery mechanisms are used? Are complementary services (related to health, education or nutrition) or trainings offered?Does the programme collect gender-disaggregated data (e.g. number of male/female beneficiaries)?Are gender-related outcomes evaluated by the programme?  Does the programme rely on community monitoring or social audits?Is a grievance redress mechanism available?For cash transfer programmes:Are conditionalities part of the programme? If yes, which and are there any attempts made to avoid possible negative impacts of conditionalities (e.g. through the use of soft conditionalities)? Who is the main benefit recipient (mother, head of household, guardian/caregiver)? For public works programmes:Are quotas for women’s participation used? Is the allocation of less physically intense tasks possible for women or for vulnerable groups?Are childcare and/or breastfeeding facilities and breaks or flexible work hours offered?Are there provisions for equal pay?Are there incentives for women to take on leadership roles?Do women participate in the decision over community assets to be built, or is there a prioritisation of assets that directly meet their needs?For school feeding programmes:Are incentives provided for girls’ participation (e.g. take-home ratios for girls)?Are women involved in the programme? If yes, how (e.g. as cookers)?In some cases, these criteria could not be assessed due to lack of information, constituting an important limitation. Another limitation of this research is that only documents in English were reviewed, yet important documents, such as programme manuals, are often only available in the country’s official languages. Lastly, this research is limited to the programmes’ design and does not include an evaluation of their implementation.The review of the programmes’ gender-related impacts was restricted to experimental and quasi-experimental impact evaluations with gender-disaggregated results and/or with specific analysis of gender-related outcomes, including indicators related to health, education, and empowerment, as well as gender norms. The search was conducted within three weeks (between 22 January and 12 February 2019) using Google Scholar, as well as PEP and 3IE databases.Key findingsProgramme objectives generally did not include specific gender considerations. Where they did, they are commonly related to barriers to education, maternity health, income-related risks, or the vulnerabilities of single and widowed women. However, only limited evidence of significant follow-up on progress in these areas was found in the monitoring and evaluation mechanisms of these programmes.Most countries have programmes that either target or prioritise women in general (including female-headed households), or pregnant women, mothers, widows and single women specifically. Few programmes were found to explicitly target adolescent girls, presenting a major gap given the particular vulnerabilities of this group. Some programmes were also found to have provisions for outreach and communication activities. Nonetheless, the assessment showed that there are still significant barriers to be addressed in people’s awareness of their right to social protection. Moreover, a variety of payment mechanisms is used to deliver social protection benefits in the region, including banks, mobile payments and post offices. Existing assessments have shown that multi-layer and complex payment mechanisms can often increase women’s time burden. It is therefore important to carry out more in-depth assessments in order to understand the difficulties that beneficiaries may have in accessing their benefits. In some cases, complementary measures, such as financial literacy training, can present a good option to address existing challenges.Where policies and programmes remain confined in their own sectors, there might be missed opportunities to address gender-based vulnerabilities. Regarding the provision of complementary services, it is important not to reinforce gender roles through them by also including fathers in activities related to child nutrition awareness, for instance. This has rarely been found to be the case in South Asia. Moreover, training in productive activities and skills development can be strengthened in order to promote women’s participation in the labour market. However, the assessment has also shown that it is important that these are adapted to the local context and beneficiaries’ needs. Though most programmes were found to provide gender-disaggregated information on beneficiaries, monitoring and evaluation needs to be strengthened in order to understand the impact (whether positive or negative) that programmes have on gender outcomes, not only in terms of health, education, and nutrition, but also in terms of women’s empowerment and gender norms. Social accountability mechanisms, including social audits, community monitoring, and grievance redressal mechanisms also need to be improved, as there were many reports of malfunctioning. Moreover, little evidence was found on how complaints and suggestions actually feed back into programme reform, highlighting another important gap.Looking specifically at cash transfers, it can be observed that many programmes are focused on maternity-related outcomes. The assessment showed that programmes that require pregnant women to have institutional deliveries can be more gender-sensitive if they incorporate the costs associated with transportation and also provide flexibility in terms of women’s choice to deliver at home, particularly where accessing the appropriate services might be too expensive or put women’s safety at risk. Moreover, it is important that these programmes are accompanied by robust grievance redressal systems that can capture women’s complaints and feed them back into the supply side. In terms of public works programmes, much more can be done in order to ensure women’s participation in more equal terms. Quotas for women and vulnerable groups, provisions for equal wages, childcare, breastfeeding facilities and breaks, as well as flexible working hours are all measures that can be strengthened. Moreover, incentives for women to take on leadership roles and for women’s participation in the decision-making process regarding the building of community assets can also promote more positive gender outcomes.School feeding programmes need to become more accountable in terms of women’s involvement in programme implementation. In the case of India, women were found to be the majority of cookers engaged in the programme (which was also established by design), but their work conditions are rather precarious. Moreover, the expectation that mothers will provide supervision in programme implementation without compensation risks putting more pressure on a group that is already overburdened with unpaid care work.The review of impact evaluations, though with mixed impacts for several outcomes, has also demonstrated the potential for significant impacts in terms of gender equality of social protection programmes. Maternal health is an area where demand-side programmes have shown to increase service utilisation, however service quality also needs to be improved. Regarding food security, nutrition, education, and employment, findings point to rather heterogeneous impacts, which vary a lot depending on age and gender. It is important to ensure that the lessons learned from the growing body of evidence feeds back into programme design and implementation. Furthermore, very few studies looked specifically at programmes’ impacts on gender norms and attitudes, however, there is some promising evidence from Afghanistan and Pakistan. The inclusion of more qualitative evidence can help to gain a more nuanced understanding of how gender inequalities play out in different contexts.ConclusionGender disparities remain high in the South Asia region, yet at the same time there is a growing recognition of the potential of social protection programmes, including for women’s empowerment. The research conducted has shown that despite some positive examples, governments in the region still have to invest significantly in order to make their social protection systems more gender-sensitive, and in turn advance gender equality in the region. One of the key gaps identified relates to the lack of comprehensive grievance and complaints mechanisms, limiting women’s ability to make their voices heard and the possibilities of improving the programme. Another key gap relates to programmes' monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, which rarely focus on gender outcomes. The review has also shown the importance of conducting gender assessments prior to implementation, as they can be key in making social protection programmes more gender-sensitive by taking context specific vulnerabilities and needs into account. Finally, while the design of programmes is the first step to make programmes more gender-sensitive, their implementation is likewise crucial. Therefore, more assessments should focus on programme implementation, which will be key for identifying gaps and informing policy reform.Download the bibliographyBased on Gender and social protection in South Asia: an assessment of the design of non-contributory programmes by the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) and UNICEF’s Regional Office for South Asia.#page-article-other .items h4.related-title { font-family: futura-pt-condensed,sans-serif; text-transform: uppercase; font-size: 150%; font-weight: medium; padding: 0; margin: 0; clear: both; color: #1CABE2; margin-bottom: 20px; visibility: hidden; position: relative; } h4.related-title:after { visibility: visible; position: absolute; content: "THINK PIECES"; top: 0; left: 0; }
Gender, paid domestic work and social protection. Exploring opportunities and challenges to extending social protection coverage among paid domestic workers in Nigeria
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Gender, paid domestic work and social protection. Exploring opportunities and challenges to extending social protection coverage among paid domestic workers in Nigeria

Disclaimer: The views expressed within this Think Piece are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of UNICEF. This Think Piece has not been edited to official publication standards and UNICEF accepts no responsibility for errors.Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed, UNICEF Office of Research - InnocentiAround the world, the social significance and demand for paid domestic work has grown enormously – becoming an important source of employment for an estimated 70.1 million people globally, possibly up to 100 million as domestic work is often hidden and unregistered. Of that, between 4 and 10% of workers in the Global South are engaged in this form of employment, compared with between 1 and 2.5% in the Global North. Furthermore, in Africa it represents 1.4% of total employment and 4.9% of total paid employees. While domestic work is a highly feminised job, with women making up 70.2% of domestic workers, an increasing body of work also explores men in this occupation, including male migrant domestic workers performing domestic tasks traditionally associated with women in the household. This increase in numbers of domestic workers is also due to changes in labour markets worldwide, resulting in a transition towards a service economy and the creation of an environment in which more casual and insecure work has been an integral part of women’s increased labour force participation. This is coupled with a declining public provisioning of care, women’s struggle to combine their paid work and unpaid domestic responsibilities, and men’s supposed unwillingness to increase their contribution to unpaid reproductive labour. To ease these burdens, middle and upper-class households have adopted the use of ‘commoditised care work’. Domestic workers make a large contribution economically and socially to society. Yet, they experience uncertain working conditions and little to no social protection as a result of domestic work being considered a low status job. Employment benefits such as health insurance, maternity benefits or social pensions are usually absent from working arrangements. Along with the receipt of little or no pay, domestic workers (especially live-ins) have no clear division between work and private time with long working hours, limited rest and leisure time, and rare opportunities for days off. Additionally, they have heavy workloads, inadequate accommodation and food (for live-in workers), job insecurity, and exposure to violence and abuse in the workplace. International and National Regulation on Domestic WorkLegal minimum global standards for workers’ rights can contribute towards improving protection and working conditions of domestic workers around the world, including the ILO’s Decent Work for Domestic Workers Agenda, and specifically Convention Number 189 (C189) and Recommendation Number 201, which came into force in September 2013. It recognises the social and economic value of this occupation and calls for the progressive extension of social security protection of domestic workers. Convention No.189 comprises twenty-seven global standards for workers’ rights. These include: effective protection against all forms of abuse, harassment and violence (Article 5); fair terms of employment and decent working conditions that respect their privacy (Article 6); normal hours of work, overtime compensation, periods of daily and weekly rest and pain annual leave (Article 10). The accompanying Recommendation 201 provides practical guidance concerning possible legal and other measures to implement the rights and principles stated in C189, such as paragraph 25, which recognises the need to respect domestic workers’ work and family responsibilities. Since its adoption, the Convention has been ratified in 29 countries - 27 are already in force, with two coming into force between April and June 2020.In Nigeria, domestic work is undeniably part of everyday life, with some households employing a range of workers to performs services, such as cleaning, cooking, caring for children, washing clothes, driving, gardening and security. Others hire a woman, who can do household chores and care for the children or a man who, in addition to domestic tasks, might also garden, guard and, in a few cases, drive. Some families employ domestic workers on a full-time basis, while others make do with part-time workers. Domestic workers represent a significant share of the labour force of the informal economy in the country. The 2007 National Bureau Statistics of Nigeria estimated domestic workers at 197,900, comprising 98,300 women and 99,600 men – although these numbers are likely underestimated.Nigerian legislation and policy do give effect to a number of ILO’s C189 standards for regulating domestic work. There are policies that recognise paid domestic work, including the Labour Regulations (1936), the Labour Act (1990), the Anti-trafficking Policy (2003), the Employee Compensation Act (2010) and the Labour Migration Policy (2013). For example, while the use of the term ‘servant’ is extremely problematic – further denoting inferiority between the domestic worker and the domestic employer, Article 91 of the Nigerian Labour Act (1990) provides a definition of a ‘domestic servant’ as: ...any house, table or garden servant employed in or in connection with the domestic services of any private dwelling house, and includes a servant employed as the driver of a privately owned or privately used motor car.Closer inspection of existing policies reveals several important gaps, exclusions, and loopholes, which can exempt employers and the State from ensuring that domestic work is protected and regulated. For example, ‘implicit exclusion’ of domestic workers can be found with reference to receiving the national minimum wage, which was proposed by the Nigerian Senate to be raised from NGN18,000 (USD$58) to NGN30,000 (USD$97) in March 2019. While Article 9 of the National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Act (2011) defines a ‘worker’ as: ‘…any member of the civil service of the Federation, of a State or Local Government or any individual (other than persons occupying executive, administrative, technical or professional positions in any such civil service) who has entered into or works under a contract with an employer whether the contract is manual labour, clerical work or otherwise, expressed or implied, oral or in writing, and whether it is a contract personally to execute any work or labour’. Domestic workers appear to be excluded from the entitlement to receive the minimum wage under Article 2(a) of this Act, which states that the requirement to pay the national minimum wage under section 1 of the Act shall not apply to ‘an establishment in which less than fifty workers are employed’ – a situation that applies to almost all domestic workers. The state of the legal and policy provisions applicable to domestic workers in Nigeria, are compounded within a country context where a cultural and societal attitude of stigmatisation and discrimination of domestic workers exists with no formal mechanisms in place to enforce any existing laws. Employers’ themselves may not even be aware of the existence of such laws or lack the willingness to learn about them. Thus, as significant as international standard setting is for the protection of domestic workers, regulation and protection is also based on a society’s recognition of domestic workers.Extending Nigeria’s Social Protection Agenda to Include Domestic WorkersNigeria’s Social Protection Agenda is expanding. This includes rolling out a comprehensive National Social Safety Net Programme (NASSP) as part of its National Social Investment Programme (N-SIP), approval of a National Social Protection Policy and the creation of the National Social Safety Net Coordination Office (NASSCO) to coordinate all existing social assistance programmes in the country. Current social protection programmes include a Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Programme focused on providing NGN5,000 (USD$16) a month to one million extremely poor Nigerians and a National Home Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP) providing one meal a day to 5.5 million public primary school children. There are also labour market programmes, such as the N-Power Programme - a job creation and skills empowerment programme for young Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 35, and the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP). These programmes, for the most part, do not include informal workers, including domestic workers. Given the important role of the paid domestic work sector to the Nigerian economy, it is vital to ensure that social protection is extended to them – and broader informal workers.Challenges to Extension of Social Protection Coverage Extending social protection coverage to domestic workers is not without its challenges, particularly in the Nigerian context where the current social protection strategy already faces policy inconsistency, a lack of reliable data, funding and accountability, low coverage and targeting issues.With respect to paid domestic work, coverage of social security, worker’s rights and minimum wage guarantees are usually limited to workers in the formal economy. Domestic workers in the country do not tend to fall under this category of employment and are often excluded from such considerations. Being invisible and isolated, with a lack of time off, freedom of movement, and few social networks, makes the opportunity for domestic workers to bargain collectively to improve their living and working conditions difficult. Collective organising of domestic workers is also at early stages in Nigeria. In July 2011, for example, the Federation of Informal Workers’ Organisation of Nigeria (FIWON), an umbrella organisation for self-employed Nigerians in the informal economy, attempted to organise domestic workers into a union. FIWON organised a one-day workshop, ‘Building a Union to Fight for Domestic Workers’ Rights and Respect at Work: Challenges and Opportunities’, in which twenty domestic workers came together to call for job security and improved working conditions to enable them to live decent lives and contribute to national development. Yet, awareness of rights may not lead to action as high turnover, and the inability to speak up for fear of losing their job, makes it even harder for domestic workers to demand for their rights, such as having written contracts to enable negotiations of their conditions of work.Domestic workers low and irregular salary is another barrier to being able to pay in to contributory social security benefits. In Nigeria, domestic workers’ salary ranges from nothing or being paid in-kind to as little as NGN1500 (USD$5) a month, with average salaries being around NGN13,000 (USD$38). As such, certain social insurance schemes may only be affordable to workers if it is free or subsidised. Moreover, procedures to register and contribute to social protection schemes were traditionally designed for formal companies or public institutions, leading to employers’ having limited knowledge or lack of willingness to solicit information on legal requirements and procedures to register domestic workers to social security benefits. Opportunities for Extension of Social Protection Coverage Despite these sector specific challenges, along with the broader social protection ones, there are ways to expand social protection to include domestic workers. There is scope within a number of policies in the country for further inclusion of domestic workers. Article 54 of the Labour Act could be reviewed and revised to ensure that domestic workers’ rights to maternity leave are not denied. Similarly, Article 88(1)(d) of the Labour Act and the National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Act could be revised to ensure that domestic workers are included and are paid at least the national minimum wage, in accordance with Article 11 of C189. It is also recommended that Nigeria ratifies C189.‘Extending social insurance to informal workers is complicated, but not impossible’. Recognising the specificity of domestic work, social assistance programmes that are non-contributory or have a reduced contribution can be considered. Non-contributory rates are particularly important for those workers with limited or no contributory capacity, such as social assistance in the form of universal child grants and maternity benefits. A child grant can support women workers with young children with child care costs, while maternity benefit can provide them with some income during periods when they are unable to work.For those domestic workers with some contributory capacity, extending social insurance schemes can be done at a reduced rate. Countries, including Argentina, Cabo Verde, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Philippines, Spain and Uruguay apply a lower contribution rate for domestic workers than that applied to other salaried workers. As such, the State should explore contributory schemes that do not only rely on contributions from workers themselves, but also from other actors such as employers. For example, domestic workers in South Africa are covered by the Unemployment Insurance Fund into which their employers must contribute. Awareness can also be raised more broadly on domestic workers’ rights and social protection, as well as the role of unions to improve domestic workers’ working conditions, through lobbying and collective action. This will involve a range of actors working together with the State including Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and trade union organisations such as FIWON to conduct awareness raising campaigns on the need for social protection targeting the domestic workers. The recognition, promotion and protection of domestic workers’ rights will also require willingness to learn from employers.Lessons can also be learned from African countries, such as Zambia which is working towards extending social protection provision to domestic workers. One way this is being done is through existing partnerships. In Zambia, public institutions in charge of the provision of social protection benefits, Ministries involved in social protection, and employers and workers organisations are working together to identify common policy options and raise awareness of social protection for domestic workers. There is also strong interest in social protection benefits, including pension, work injury protection and Social Health Insurance (SHI) benefits from both employers and employees, with employers stating their willingness to register their workers if contributions remain affordable and payments are made easy. Employers and employees are also willing to learn about social protection legal requirements and procedures. There is increasing global attention on decent work for domestic workers with the adoption of ILO C189 and Recommendation 201. Although C189 is yet to be ratified in Nigeria, with the expansion of social protection in the country, there are opportunities to expand social protection to domestic workers and work towards addressing existing discrimination of their rights and social protection.Download the bibliographyThis think-piece draws from the author’s own research on paid domestic work in Nigeria.#page-article-other .items h4.related-title { font-family: futura-pt-condensed,sans-serif; text-transform: uppercase; font-size: 150%; font-weight: medium; padding: 0; margin: 0; clear: both; color: #1CABE2; margin-bottom: 20px; visibility: hidden; position: relative; } h4.related-title:after { visibility: visible; position: absolute; content: "THINK PIECES"; top: 0; left: 0; }
Gender, social protection and resilience
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Gender, social protection and resilience

Disclaimer: The views expressed within this Think Piece are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of UNICEF. This Think Piece has not been edited to official publication standards and UNICEF accepts no responsibility for errors.Elizabeth Koechlein and Mari Kangasniemi, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations736 million people were living in extreme poverty in 2015. Approximately 80% of the extreme poor reside in rural areas. The multidimensional vulnerabilities of the extreme poor are exacerbated by exposure to compounding risks such as climate change, natural disasters, economic and food chain crises, and conflict. Shocks that impact large numbers of people at once—covariate shocks—affect people differently across the lifecycle and based on their livelihoods, ages and gender and other social categorizations that affect roles and expectations. These characteristics shape experiences in preparing for, responding to, and coping with shocks. Gender defines the social roles, rights and responsibilities of men and women, and boys and girls, in relation to each other, and therefore has significant implications for individual capability to contend with risks.Social protection (SP) is critical in rural areas for ensuring food security, fostering productive investments and livelihoods, enhancing capacity to manage lifecycle risks, smoothing consumption and ultimately contributing to lifting rural people out of poverty. Evidence from development contexts suggests systematically applying a gender lens to SP enhances empowerment outcomes for rural women and men. Not only is women’s agency and empowerment a human rights imperative, it also has implications for more sustainable poverty reduction, food security, and nutrition. Yet rural populations in general, and rural women and girls in particular, continue to lack sufficient coverage and access to SP. They face barriers to fully benefitting from SP programming, like limited intra-household bargaining power or excessive work burden.At the same, the humanitarian system is increasingly under strain as disasters are more frequent and complex. SP is a policy tool that can be used to contribute to meeting immediate needs while “providing assistance that empowers and equips people to prepare for, withstand and bounce back from dire and complex situations”.  FAO, together with UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Bank and others, have identified “risk-informed and shock-responsive social protection (RISRSP)” as an innovative and scalable component of disaster response and preparedness with potential to enhance resilience. While SP instruments such as cash transfers have long been used in disaster response, RISRSP presents the opportunity to leverage SP systems, often led by governments, to enhance people’s resilience to covariate shocks, as well as smooth consumption following a shock and help them to build back resilient livelihoods. In both humanitarian response and in RISRSP, integrating a gender perspective is crucial for inclusive resilience. Why a gender lens important in a crisis: examplesGender equality and women’s empowerment are crucial for a broad array of development goals and for ensuring their own resilience, the resilience of their communities, and more sustainable peace. Yet women and girls are often disadvantaged. This is particularly true for rural women and girls who “fare worse than rural men and urban women and men for almost every indicator for which data are available”, despite making key contributions to food production, playing vital roles in the diversification of rural livelihoods, reducing food loss and waste, and making food systems more efficient, resilient and climate-smart. This is often compounded by other forms of oppression and marginalization which can vary by location and change over time and context. Socially marginalized populations are least likely to have the power, economic resources, and physical capability needed during and after natural disasters. Where women’s socioeconomic status is low, natural disasters are likely to impact a greater proportion of women than men. This may be due to differential physical ability and gender norms, or reduced access to food, hygiene, health care, and clean water. Women may face mobility challenges related to social stigma and norms about men and women’s interaction, physical limitations due to pregnancy, care responsibilities, access to information, or resources and assistance.In conflict settings, men between the ages of 15 to 44 generally constitute a greater proportion of violent war deaths while women and children make up around 80% of displaced persons and refugees globally. Women and children tend to have more exposure to certain  health effects of conflict, including infectious disease and malnutrition. Displacement can lead to significant asset loss, loss of social networks, and increased household poverty, both for those who are displaced and left behind. Among displaced populations, there is increased incidence of domestic violence as well as increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence and a lack of adequate sexual and reproductive health care. In host countries with fewer restrictions on employment, displacement may offer opportunities for women and girls in the form of positive disruptions to traditional divisions of labour. In some settings, women and children may be left behind as men migrate in search of work. This often leads to increased work burden for women and girls but may also offer economic and leadership opportunities. These opportunities can only be fulfilled in an enabling environment for women’s social and economic empowerment. Economic and food price crises can lead to sharp increases in poverty. The direct and indirect impacts of economic shocks are gendered due to gender differences in resources and labour prior to shocks. Coping strategies are also gendered due to social norms, unequal distribution of both private and public resources in response to crises, and unequal access to decision-making power from intra-household to national levels.  Globally, women are more likely to be in vulnerable work or work in the informal sector. Women are also more likely than men to move from the formal to the informal sector than men during economic crises. Women’s heavy participation in informal employment and their lower wages mean that, in the case of job loss, women have less access to unemployment insurance and savings. The conditions of work for both women and men decline in economic crises as do workers’ rights. Rural women may take on off-farm paid labour and work longer hours to contribute to the household. Gendered norms around “breadwinning” may affect men psychologically and socially when they become unemployed. These norms often mean that employers are more willing to fire women than men during economic downturns, though this varies by context and the sectors affected. During the 1997 Asian financial crisis, more Korean women than men dropped out of the labor force. In other contexts, women may increase their participation in the labour market to compensate for household income losses. During the peso crisis in Mexico in the 1990s, there was evidence of an added worker effect, with more women entering the labor market as their spouses lost jobs. Recovery programmes, such as public works, may also suffer from breadwinner bias, or may fail to consider the contributions of women’s unpaid labor.Dramatic changes in commodity prices of food and fuel can send households and individuals into poverty. Price hikes hurt net consumers more than net producers, and the poor are most affected as they spend a larger share of their income on food. Female-headed households are among the poorest and tend to have high dependency ratios paired with low purchasing power due to fewer economic opportunities, lower educational levels, wage disparities, and other income insecurities. This makes them particularly vulnerable to food price increases.In some cases, higher food prices may be an incentive for farm producers. However, this may not hold true for women farmers who tend to have less access to credit and information. Within the household, men and women may be responsible for different crops, with men often responsible for cash crops and women managing food crops consumed by the household. “To the extent that men are more involved in cash cropping than women or produce surpluses from food crops because of better access to resources, they are more able to expand their production and benefit from increases in food prices.”Who delivers social protection?The characteristics of social protection in a given place have implications for determining the most appropriate strategy for RISRSP or for the use of SP instruments in humanitarian response. SP systems can vary from non-existent in fragile contexts to mature, comprehensive, state-led systems of contributory and noncontributory programming and labour market regulation. Because shock-responsiveness in SP involves “scaling up” SP in response to shocks or stressors, in environments with very limited or non-existent institutional capacity to design and implement SP, there is also generally very little programming to begin with that can be used to “scale up” and little capacity to do so. Thus, humanitarian emergency response delivered by humanitarian actors—including international organizations, and international, national and local NGOs, (sometimes in coordination with government)--is often the best option for mitigating the immediate effects of crises. Additionally, humanitarian response may be the most appropriate strategy for ensuring principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and independence in contexts in which the state may act in ways that harm affected populations. Finally, even in contexts in which the state may have a relatively robust social protection system, humanitarian response may still be necessary if the state lacks the ability to scale up social transfers to those who need it quickly.Increasingly, humanitarian actors deliver assistance in the form of cash. Such cash-based interventions are often short-term and implemented in response to a shock, rather than in anticipation of one. However, in some cases, cash- and voucher- based interventions implemented by humanitarian actors may be designed to build longer term resilience or may contribute to the infrastructure underpinning later state-led SP programming in contexts where this was missing or limited prior to crises. Some evidence suggests that responses to shocks are likely to be more effective if they are based on programmes and mechanisms that are in place before a crisis occurs. In contexts with an existing and comprehensive system, building in shock-responsiveness involves strengthening and expanding the SP system in a number of ways to respond to new needs in terms of coverage, adequacy of benefits, creating linkages to other policies and livelihood supports, and more. It may also involve scaling up in anticipation of shocks or stressors to reduce the likelihood that these shocks lead to a disaster.A gender lens is important in all approaches to scaling up SP in response to shocks. This is clear in the evidence on gender and SP in development contexts and in the evidence on how gender shapes resilience and vulnerability. Although there is not much evidence yet on how the design and implementation of RISRSP can change the gendered impacts of shocks, there is some evidence related to gender and the use of SP instruments, such as public works programmes (PWPs) and cash transfers (CTs), by humanitarian actors in crisis contexts which can lend some insights into how to consider gender dimensions in RISRSP. Gender-sensitive and humanitarian Social Protection programmingThe evidence base on the impact of SP instruments in humanitarian settings has been slowly building since the early 2000s. Overall, most evidence on SP in humanitarian programming comes from programme evaluations and is inconsistent in terms of methods and quality. The literature cited in OPM finds beneficial impacts of CTs and in-kind support, as well as potential for subsidies or school feeding in shock response, especially in situations with limited institutional capacity. The following outlines select evidence from cash-based interventions and PWPs in humanitarian contexts, specifically related to aspects of emergencies that may heighten gender inequality (such as protection concerns) and programmes designed to build longer term resilience. Protective: Addressing practical needs equitablyIn general, there is little gender-disaggregated data available from humanitarian contexts. It is generally understood that when women control expenditure, health and child wellbeing are prioritized. Evidence suggests that CTs are generally associated with reductions in intimate partner violence (IPV) in development contexts, but attention to intra-household tensions is critical. In humanitarian contexts, CTs also tend to be associated with decreases in IPV through reductions in intra-household stress related to meeting household needs. It is important that careful planning and messaging correspond to transfers targeted to women to ensure that men understand why women have been targeted. How aid is delivered also has gendered implications. Women can be limited in their access to CTs and vouchers by constraints on their mobility or a lack of identify cards. Because PWPs and cash for work (CFW) programmes target those who are able to work, they are likely to leave those who are most vulnerable behind or fail to account for the specific circumstances faced by marginalized people. Diversifying the work has the potential to include older people, people with disabilities, and other marginalized communities. In the absence of clear evidence of relative efficiency and preferences, decisions regarding transfer types should be made based on gender-sensitive needs assessments and gender-sensitive market analysis. However, while in-kind transfers are still used in emergency contexts when essential goods are not available for purchase, the trend towards increased use of cash in emergencies is unlikely to be reversed as it contributes to the recovery of local markets and facilitates choice and dignity. Addressing the gender constraints of cash through complementary programming may be a more sustainable approach to overcoming the gender-related issues of women’s limited decision-making within the household. For example, women should be involved as ‘central actors’ in planning transfers for food assistance. Predictable and timely cash transfers can provide income certainty and encourage beneficiaries to adopt new technologies, such as drought resistant crop varieties, to increase their preparedness in times of shocks and build resilient food production. However, this evidence should be carefully scrutinized from a gender perspective, as women often have less access to new technologies and may lack authority, information, or resources to apply new technologies and climate-smart farming practices. Preventive: Strengthening the risk management capacity of rural womenIn-kind and CTs can help smooth consumption in times of shocks. Informal and community-based SP may also reinforce women’s ability to manage risk through enhanced social capital, local collective action, and community groups. Evidence on humanitarian transfers made through self-help groups in Ethiopia link these transfers with increased access to loans and savings for women, similar to many of the outcomes from CTs made in development contexts. Labour organizations, producer groups, and self-help groups may help women and men during food and economic crises. Such groups may improve women’s bargaining power, though the covariate nature of widespread economic crises may limit the benefit of these groups. Promotive outcomes: Improving women’s income-generation and employment Greater impact is often seen when cash is supplemented with skills and capacity development activities to support resilience and adaptability. One such approach, “cash plus”, is “a flexible combination of CTs and productive assets, activities and inputs, and/or technical training and extension services”. Following emergencies, lump-sum transfers are sometimes used. However, it is important to note that lump sum payments can be gender-biased as women often face greater constraints in making productive investments than men. For example, in the absence of gender-sensitive rural advisory services, women may lack the same “experience and connections to make profitable investments”. Gender-responsive cash plus programming should be one part of a broader strategy for economic inclusion.Transformative outcomes: Enhancing gender equalityCTs generally facilitate the dignity of recipients by promoting choice, but empowerment outcomes from cash, PWPs, and vouchers in humanitarian settings are often not researched. In the few cases where empowerment is measured, it has been found that inadequate transfer size and a lack of psychosocial services may prevent empowerment. Some modest gains in measures of women’s empowerment have been noted in less severe emergencies when women were able to access government services and were made aware of their rights as a part of programming. Evaluations of long-term cash transfer programming in unstable contexts demonstrate that women tend to be included in decision-making about how money is spent. The limited evidence available suggests that cash transfers for resilience contribute to women’s improved decision-making power and more equitable allocation of food within the household by addressing unequal power relations, women’s lower status, and limited nutritional knowledge through transfers to women, particularly those with cash plus components that focus on nutrition interventions. Cash transfers directed to women can improve intra-household dynamics and shift consumption in ways that may benefit children and enhance nutrition and dietary diversity. .Following the cease of hostilities, women often play crucial yet informal roles in the reintegration of ex-combatants. There is evidence that women’s empowerment and economic equality contribute to sustaining peace through their roles as leaders and agents of change in both formal and informal peacebuilding processes and in building resilient communities, yet women are often excluded from formal processes. The literature on gender in emergencies often highlights changing social roles for women due to crisis-related changes in household composition and public life. These changes may enhance women’s autonomy, decision-making power, or status within the community. However, there is little evidence that these changes endure. As SP programming seeks to link humanitarian and development efforts, short-term benefits for women from SP programming should be tied to longer-term community-driven transformational changes in gender relations. Somalia: PWPs for longer-term recovery from complex crisesFAO has implemented CFW programming in Somalia since 2007. FAO’s July 2011 CFW famine response became the Social Safety Nets pillar of the Joint Resilience Strategy (JRS) between UNICEF, WFP, and FAO, which contributed to short-term consumption smoothing and showed potential to increase longer term resilience and employment options. Participants reported that CFW money was used to pay school fees, to re-stock livestock, repair houses, or buy seeds. However, it proved difficult to engage women. Women were either represented by male members of their family or given tasks such as cooking and brewing tea, and the lack of childcare remained a challenge. When women did not have a male family member to represent them, they were often excluded entirely.In 2013, research conducted in Dollow to understand the gender dimensions of livelihoods found little evidence of gender mainstreaming in CFW programming. The findings and recommendations led to changes in the JRS which have been seen on the ground. In Beer village (Burao district), adjustments were made to women’s work hours and a short afternoon shift was introduced to accommodate women’s other responsibilities. Women were given priority for CFW opportunities near their villages to minimize travel time. Pregnant and lactating women could appoint someone to work on their behalf while retaining their right to collect wages. These steps increased women’s participation. Although many challenges and opportunities remain, this case illustrates the importance of gender analysis in designing SP programming and the possibility to mainstream gender in insecure and highly gender-segregated societies. Gender and RISRSP SystemsIntegrating a gender lens in RISRSP will entail leveraging what we know about gender-sensitive SP and what we know about the role of gender in resilience and vulnerability. It is also clear that much more research is needed to better understand good practices in RISRSP, as well as how gendered resilience and vulnerability interact with social protection programming.Policymakers must ensure that: 1) the underlying national SP system is gender-sensitive; 2) the manner in which the SP programme scales-up is gender-sensitive; and 3) gender-sensitivity is maintained and adapted dynamically, including by ensuring that women are active agents in the design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of SP programming. Ideally, attention to gender dynamics beyond protection and ensuring basic needs may contribute to the attainment of more strategic gender goals.  Although empowerment outcomes and transformative policy design often seem far out of reach in crisis contexts, these situations may offer opportunities for social change. Ethiopia: The Productive Safety Net Programme and Cyclical ShocksThe Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) was created in 2005 by the Government of Ethiopia to address food insecurity through the distribution of cash or food and is now one of the largest SP programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa. Chronic food insecurity is addressed through regular transfers based on season and need, while contingency budgets and the Risk Financing Mechanism allow the PSNP to scale up during shocks that make food insecurity more extreme. PSNP also supports livelihoods through a PWP in which a member of a PSNP household must participate in productive activities that build resilience.The PSNP targets women through a focus on women-headed households and engaging women in PWP and recognizes some gender-specific vulnerabilities such as time poverty, work burden, and physical capability through provisions to address these barriers. The assets created through the PWPs are often determined with gender in mind. These design features have fulfilled some practical needs for women and led to greater community respect through their work in PWPs. However, much remains to be done, including ensuring implementation of the gender-sensitive design features currently in place. Despite gender-sensitive design features, a 2010 ODI analysis found that capacity development and awareness-raising were insufficient, and intra-household dynamics were not addressed. The fourth phase of the PSNP began in 2015 and runs through 2020. Context-specific attention to gendered risks and vulnerabilities in social assessments underpinning the design of this phase indicate an emphasis on addressing the issues of earlier phases of the PSNP, though sustainable outcomes in terms of securing women’s strategic needs and ensuring more transformational changes remain to be seen.Download the bibliography
Social protection in humanitarian contexts: how can programming respond to adolescent- and gender-specific vulnerabilities and promote young people’s resilience?
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Social protection in humanitarian contexts: how can programming respond to adolescent- and gender-specific vulnerabilities and promote young people’s resilience?

Disclaimer: The views expressed within this Think Piece are those of the author(s)and do not necessarily represent the views of UNICEF. This Think Piece has not been edited to official publication standards and UNICEF accepts no responsibility for errors.Nicola Jones, Overseas Development InstituteThe important role of social protection programming (especially cash/in-kind transfers and cash or food for work) in responding to humanitarian crises has been gaining increasing recognition. Its role in addressing gender- and lifecycle-specific risks and vulnerabilities has similarly gained traction. However, there has been very little discussion on how responsive such programming is to adolescents’ multi-dimensional vulnerabilities in humanitarian contexts – despite the fact that young people under 20 years are disproportionately affected by humanitarian crises. To initiate a conversation on this important nexus, this think piece briefly reviews existing social protection programming in humanitarian contexts, using a gender and adolescence lens. It considers how far adolescents and their gendered vulnerabilities have been included in programme design, as well as monitoring and evaluation (M&E). It concludes by outlining implications for programming, practice and policy, with suggestions on how programming can be strengthened to realise the rights and capabilities of adolescent girls and boys, and to advance progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including poverty eradication (SDG 1), health and wellbeing (SDG 3), quality education (SDG 4), gender equality (SDG 5) and reducing inequality (SDG 10). Approaching social protection through an adolescent and gender lens Adolescence (10–19 years) is a pivotal life stage that brings about rapid physical, cognitive and psycho-emotional changes. It therefore offers an important window of opportunity to offset childhood disadvantage, to alter an individual’s development trajectory (in both the short and longer term), and to reduce intra-generational poverty and exclusion. National governments and donors increasingly recognise the need to invest in today’s generation of adolescents (the largest ever) to reap the ‘demographic dividend’. There is increasing evidence that social protection, and especially cash transfers, have multiple positive impacts on developmental outcomes , but the evidence base on how effectively such programming tackles adolescent-specific risks and vulnerabilities is nascent. The multi-agency Transfer Project has made an important contribution, exploring the adolescent- and youth-specific impacts of household-focused social assistance programmes and there is a small but emerging evidence base on adolescent-targeted cash transfers. Existing evidence is, however, mostly limited to education and health outcomes, highlighting a major gap in exploring the broader range of support that adolescents need to tackle multi-dimensional vulnerabilities and reach their full human capabilities – including in key areas such as freedom from violence and bodily integrity, psychosocial wellbeing, voice and agency, and economic empowerment.  As gendered social norms become increasingly salient during adolescence, girls and boys find themselves facing distinct gendered vulnerabilities . Yet there has been a paucity of attention to the ways in which social protection programming tackles gender- and adolescent-specific risks and vulnerabilities. For example, while adolescent girls are known to face heightened risks of sexual and gender-based violence, unmet sexual and reproductive health (SRH) needs, child marriage, social isolation, and mental ill-health, there remains scant evidence on how far social protection programming (either directly or as a part of a cash-plus approach) addresses these gender-specific risks. As we argue below, the evidence gaps are compounded in the case of humanitarian settings. For example, we know that adolescent girls in conflict-affected contexts are at especially high risk of child marriage and are unlikely to attend secondary school. We also know that countries with recurrent disasters and conflict have the most widespread abuses in terms of child labour, which disproportionately impacts adolescent boys. Despite this, social protection programming is rarely tailored to the needs of adolescents in such contexts, and we know little about how to address their vulnerabilities and promote their resilience.Social protection in humanitarian contexts – what is the state of the evidence? Cash transfer programming in humanitarian assistance has grown significantly in recent years, with the Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP) estimating that in 2016 $2.8 billion was disbursed through cash and vouchers – almost double the 2014 amount. Globally, social protection programming is helping to meet the needs of an estimated 21.3 million refugees and 38 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) – mainly for food, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), but also education, health and protection. Programming tends to be either household-focused or category-focused (e.g. households with family members with disabilities, households where women and girls are at risk of gender-based violence, households with school-aged children). Initiatives can be further broken down into interventions supporting: (1) communities affected by natural disasters or health epidemics (e.g. Ebola in West Africa, earthquakes and tsunamis in Asia); (2) refugees affected by acute conflict (e.g. Yemen and Rohingya); (3) refugees affected by protracted conflict (Syrian refugees, Palestinian refugees);  and (4) IDPs affected by conflict and forced to relocate within their own country, but away from their homes (e.g. communities affected by ethnic-based conflict in Ethiopia’s Somali, Oromia and SNNPR regions in late 2017/2018) (see Annex, Table 1).The very limited attention to gender- and age-specific risks and vulnerabilities – in both programme design and assessment – is striking. CaLP has explicitly noted the need ‘to strengthen the evidence on CTP [cash transfer programming] and gender equality, and in relation to specific sub-populations of concern, which may also help to bridge gaps in protection evidence’. In a review of emerging lessons on social protection and gendered impacts in humanitarian settings, Simon concurs that the evidence base is very limited, but cites some evidence around women having more say in household decision-making, a reduction in intimate partner violence, and greater psychosocial wellbeing. Evidence on child marriage, vulnerabilities to transactional sex, and spill-over effects on women’s and adolescent girls’ sense of safety and economic empowerment, however, remains very weak. What do we know about the intersection between social protection programming, gender and adolescence in humanitarian settings? Given the clear focus in humanitarian settings on meeting basic household needs, programming modalities have largely viewed the household as a unit rather than tailoring assistance to address gender- or age-specific vulnerabilities of individual family members. In light of this, here we briefly explore the evidence on programmes targeting adolescents, as well as more general social protection interventions for which evaluations include evidence of adolescent-specific outcomes. Labelled cash transfers for educationAlthough relatively rare, ‘labelled’ cash transfers, designed to improve adolescents’ school attendance, are an emerging type of intervention in humanitarian contexts. Though unconditional, they are targeted at households with primary and secondary school-aged children and include clear messaging about the importance of education. This type of transfer has emerged in protracted refugee crises, including with Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. UNICEF’s cash transfer programme targeting Syrian refugee children in Lebanon provides second-shift students over the age of 10 with higher stipends to offset the opportunity costs of prioritising education over employment. It also includes a cash-plus element that links truant pupils to support services. An evaluation found that cash improved young adolescents’ (aged 10–14) food consumption, reduced the amount of time they spent on household chores, and increased their educational aspirations; however, supply-side constraints meant it did not succeed in increasing school enrolment. UNICEF Jordan’s Hajati cash transfer programme uses a similar model, targeting households with children aged 6–16 years, while UNICEF’s ‘one-stop’ child and adolescent community centres (makanis) are used to identify and refer out-of-school children, as well as offering educational mentoring, life skills, psychosocial support and child protection referrals. However, evaluation evidence for the Hajati cash-plus approach are awaited. In Turkey, the Conditional Cash Transfer for Education (CCTE) programme – which helps refugee families offset the costs of education, contingent on 80% attendance – provides cash for secondary enrolment, and giving higher amounts for girls’ enrolment than boys’ enrolment. It also follows up cases of non-attendance, referring children to additional services as needed. However, while it has age- and gender-sensitive design features, disaggregated impacts are not reported. Elsewhere, the Girls’ Education South Sudan (GESS) cash transfer targets girls only (due to their lower enrolment rates) in upper primary and secondary schools, in all ten former states of the Republic of South Sudan, with approximately $25 a year towards their education costs. In three years (to 2017), it increased the proportion of female students in school from 40% to 46%. It has been especially effective at upper-primary level, given the supply-side constraints and higher costs associated with secondary school.Protection-related cash-plus initiativesBesides the child protection components of the labelled cash transfers already discussed (but which have not been systematically evaluated to assess protection-specific outcomes), programming has rarely sought to address child protection vulnerabilities – a surprising gap given the heightened risks of violence and exploitation facing adolescents in humanitarian settings. An important exception is the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) cash-plus gender-based violence response programme in Jordan, targeting vulnerable Syrian refugee women and adolescent girls. It provided unconditional cash assistance combined with case management support to victims of intimate partner violence, as well as ‘gender discussion groups’ for peer support. While the evaluation focused on adult women rather than adolescent girls, it noted positive impacts in terms of reducing girls’ risk of coerced marriage as a means of paying off debts, and their risk of sexual exploitation and abuse, ‘particularly by landlords, aid workers (from both international and community-based organizations), community leaders, and others in positions of power’. The evaluation concluded that cash was only able to temporarily mitigate the risk of child marriage, however, given the economic insecurity facing refugee households and the risks of sexual harassment and related threats to family honour. General cash transfers evaluated through an adolescent and gender lensUnlike the growing evidence base on how cash transfers affect adolescents in developmental settings, there is scant analogous evidence from humanitarian settings – albeit with two notable exceptions. In Gaza and the West Bank, the Palestinian National Cash Transfer Programme (PNCTP) – a means-tested transfer aimed at alleviating poverty and improving consumption – reduced participation in exploitative and risky forms of labour among 15–18-year-olds. It also includes categorical targeting of people with disabilities, and while inadequate to meet the complex needs of adolescents with disabilities, found that it facilitated school attendance and health-related needs for some. In Jordan, means-tested cash transfers provided by UNHCR and UNICEF to poor Syrian households were found to improve adolescent wellbeing by enabling access to more and better food, school supplies, clothes, and school transportation. What are the implications for policy, practice and learning? Adolescents in humanitarian contexts face a wide variety of age- and gender-specific vulnerabilities, yet there is a paucity of evaluation evidence on how to tackle these vulnerabilities in ways that enhance resilience, mirrored by a lack of evidence on the different vulnerabilities of girls and boys. Drawing on research and lessons from other contexts, however, we can elicit the following suggestions for action:  Embed an analysis of adolescents’ multi-dimensional vulnerabilities into programme design from the outset; even if social protection programmes are unable to address all vulnerabilities directly, they can support linkages and referrals to complementary programme modalities. While social protection for basic needs (including shelter, food, WASH, health and education) is essential in humanitarian contexts, addressing a broader set of vulnerabilities needs to be reframed as key to adolescent wellbeing rather than viewed as ‘optional extras’. These include: Safe spaces where IDP and refugee adolescents can meet with peers and young people from host communities. Child protection prevention (e.g. life skills classes, telephone helplines) and response services (social worker case management, legal aid, counselling), given adolescents’ heightened vulnerability to sexual exploitation and abuse, trafficking and abduction in such contexts. Access to complementary informal education for out-of-school adolescents, with flexible hours to accommodate working adolescents, emphasising skills-building and options for gaining recognisable qualifications. Psychosocial and mental health support to address conflict and displacement-related trauma. Tailored outreach and inclusive services for adolescents with disabilities. Investment in gender-sensitive WASH services (including separate toilets and menstruation dignity kits). ‘Labelled’ transfers to delay child marriage, given that regular cash transfers (which are usually low in value) appear relatively ineffective in delaying marriage. ‘Labelled’ cash transfers for tertiary education to counteract the risk of demotivating students from staying in school if opportunities for post-secondary education are scarce. Ensure that programme design takes into account crisis characteristics and stages (e.g. initial onset vs protracted crisis) but embeds a longer-term development perspective from the outset (including an understanding of the specific vulnerabilities facing adolescent girls and boys), to maximise resources and strategic planning. Design social protection programming to be sustainable and avoid funding volatility, which only exacerbates affected households’ sense of vulnerability. In addition, transfer learning from refugee settings to IDP settings, where communities often receive less support due to political sensitivities (Jones, Baird et al., forthcoming). Invest in research and M&E of social protection programming in diverse humanitarian contexts that routinely disaggregates by gender and age – whether or not there is an explicit focus on gender or lifecycle vulnerabilities – to maximise learning from household-targeted as well as adolescent-focused social protection initiatives. Download the bibliography#page-article-other .items h4.related-title { font-family: futura-pt-condensed,sans-serif; text-transform: uppercase; font-size: 150%; font-weight: medium; padding: 0; margin: 0; clear: both; color: #1CABE2; margin-bottom: 20px; visibility: hidden; position: relative; } h4.related-title:after { visibility: visible; position: absolute; content: "THINK PIECES"; top: 0; left: 0; }

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Gender-responsive and age-sensitive social protection
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Gender-responsive and age-sensitive social protection

Gender and age play a disproportionately large role in how people experience risks, vulnerabilities, and opportunities. Entrenched gender inequalities and norms drive differences in women and men’s lives and their well-being. Events at different stages in life, like marriage, childbearing or retirement, also produce distinct risks and vulnerabilities for women and girls. The intersection of gender inequalities and norms with ages and stages in the life course mean women and girls are at a heightened risk of poverty.Social protection, such as cash transfers or health insurance, can help address poverty and vulnerability, as well as supporting people during shocks from childhood through to old age. Despite the benefits of social protection systems, many fail to address gender- and life course-related vulnerabilities and inequalities, limiting its potential for poverty reduction. To understand how these vulnerabilities and inequalities can be prevented and addressed, UNICEF Office of Research—Innocenti is engaged in a five-year research programme (2018-2023) called Gender-Responsive and Age-Sensitive Social Protection (GRASSP), generously funded by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and other partners. The research programme will examine how gender-responsive and age-sensitive social protection can sustainably reduce poverty and achieve gender equality. Find out more about GRASSPRead 11 Think Pieces prepared by gender and social protection experts to stimulate discussion